Different Types of PLA Filaments

If you are familiar with 3D printing, you might already know that PLA is the most commonly used filament. The material is easy to use, even for beginners.

This material is also strong, non-toxic and can be enhanced with other materials to give your models some new properties. By adding supplementary materials to PLA, you can use it in different ways.

For example, you can use wood and PLA blend to print furniture with a naturally-looking wooden appearance. Metal can also be added to PLA to make your models stronger and glossy.

image of 3d printed furniture

There are dozens of PLA-blended options that you can try. Unfortunately, adding materials to PLA can make printing models more difficult. In some cases, some materials can deteriorate the properties of PLA.

You should check the nozzle temperature when printing. Some blends will require higher temperatures while others might need low sufficient temperatures to melt the PLA.

In this guide, we’ll look at different types of PLA filaments. You will learn the best way of using the blends and what to consider before choosing a blend.

Types of PLA Filament Blends

PLA/Wood

With this blend, wood particles are added to PLA. The particles are melted together with PLA to give your model a touch of wood that appears realistic.

After printing with PLA/wood blend, your model will still require some sanding and polishing to get a glossy finish. Sanding will also uncover the grain of your wood, making your model appear as if it was handmade from real wood.

With PLA/wood blend, you can create 3D models that would be really hard to achieve using hardwood, even for the most skilled craftsman. The models look and feel so real that it would easily fool the eye. When you tap the object, you will hear a sound similar to that of real wood.

When PLA/wood filament is heated during the printing process, it produces the smell of fresh wood.

Blended PLA loses some flexibility properties that pure PLA has. The material is not as sturdy as pure PLA. This means that your models will be brittle. This being the case, you should avoid printing high loads with wood/PLA filament.

Printing this material is also more difficult than pure PLA. This is because blended materials are more selective of the nozzle temperature. When the temperature is too high, you might burn the wood portion inside the filament. On the other hand, if it’s too cool, the PLA might not melt sufficiently and the model may look different from what you sent to the 3D printer.

However, you can make some alternations to change the temperature of the nozzle and allow your printer to use blended materials.

There are different types of wood that can be blended with PLA. These include birch wood, pine wood and oak. These different wood blending options are not very different from each other, apart from appearance.

Below is an overview of the wood blending options and their unique qualities.

  • 1. PLA/Bamboo

Different Types of PLA Filaments 1

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This is a combination of bamboo wood elements with PLA filament. The blend has similar properties to other wood and PLA combination but with some slight variances. Depending on the temperature of the nozzle, you can print wood finished with lighter and darker shades.

A slicer software, such as Simplify3D, can be used to tweak the settings of your 3D printer to make the nozzle temperature fluctuate during the printing process. By tweaking the settings, you can make better quality prints than what would have resulted from using the default settings.

You can play around with the settings to mimic wood grain. Alternatively, you can create your own pattern to be printed.

  • 2. PLA/Cedar

Cedar

 

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Cedar PLA gives your items a unique red and orange color. If you love the smell of wood, you will also love the fumes emitted during the printing process. This scent is also present in your 3D objects.

You can use cedar wood  PLA to print objects what would be used inside a house.

Ever noticed that some furniture just gives off a distinctive wood aroma while others tend to lose their scent after some time? Chances are that the furniture with the distinctive scent may be made of Cedarwood. The wood not only makes the house smell good but also helps to keep moths out.

  • 3. PLA/Coconut wood

Coconut wood

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Coconut wood is known for its ability to keep moisture out. This makes the wood perfect for objects that should be moisture-resistant, such as those placed outside your house.

You can use coconut wood PLA to print objects for open-air use or those that will have to endure tough weather conditions.

  • 4. PLA/Corkwood

Corkwood

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PLC corkwood filament produces low-density 3D objects that feature light colored finishes.

Low density 3D printed objects are not only light but also soft.

Corkwood burns at a lower temperature. Therefore, you’ll have to make the necessary changes in your slicer software.

  • 5. PLA/Pine Needles

This blend is very similar to that of PLA and Cedar. The combination is primarily used because of the aromatic qualities it poses. The key ingredient that is combined with PLA is the pine needles.

  • 6. PLA/Walnut

Walnut

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This filament is a blend of walnut particles with PLA. You can print items that will seem as if they have been made from walnut.

 

PLA/Metal

These PLA-blended filament comprise of PLA and metallic powder, which give your 3D objects metal-like finishes. The printed objects not only look like they were printed with metal but are also heavier.

Some of the popular metals that are combined with PLA include copper and stainless steel. The 3D printed objects from PLA/metal filament can be polished, just like real life meta. The objects are also heavier in weight compared to those printed using pure PLA objects.

Below is an overview of the common metal/PLA blends:

  • 1. PLA/Bronze

Bronze

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In this combination, bronze powder is added to PLA to print objects that appear as if they are made of bronze. Just like you would do with regular bronze objects, the printed objects have to be polished to give them the desired look and feel. Keep in mind that the final product might also tarnish during the manufacturing process.

Bronze is an alloy or tin and brass and, therefore, is much harder than pure brass. Using this blend is a plus if you want your objects to be hard. However, printing the metal PLA blend could take a toll on you printer’s nozzle, especially if it’s made of brass.

  • 2. PLA/Copper

Copper

 

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Copper and PLA 3D objects might also tarnish after being printed. Thi gives it the green verdigris effect, just like you would get with solid copper.

Copper is a great conductor of electricity. However, this is not the case when combined with PLA. To have a conductive 3D object, you will have to use a special PLA and conductive carbon combined filament.

  • 3. PLA/Brass

Brass

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This blend prints objects that come out in a darkened gold color that appears to be a combination of copper with bronze. This gives the 3D object a unique appearance.

  • 4. PLA/Steel

Steel

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This is the most realistic metal you can get with PLA blended filaments. If you give your already PLA/Steel printed object a good finish, people will find it hard to tell that this is definitely not solid steel.

  • 5. PLA/Iron

This blend comprises of iron powder and PLA. With this blend, the printed object still keeps its magnetic properties and its finish looks great.

Instead of using glue to put the model you’ve printed together you can buy neodymium magnets to bond together the separate parts of your 3D objects.

Exotic PLA Blend Filaments

  • 1. PLA/Carbon Fibre

3D Solutech Carbon Fiber 3D Printer Filament

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If you need objects with a high strength to weight ration, you can use something like carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). The 3D object will not only be strong but also lighter in weight.

Carbon fibers are combined with PLA to make your 3D printed objects strong. T

  • 2. PLA/Conductive Carbon

Conductive Carbon

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With this blend, conductive graphene carbon particles are added to PLA. The result is a type of filament that can carry  low voltage current and resistance.

Using this filament, you can print a simple electronic circuit board that transfers current to LEDs, motors, and sensors.

Novelty PLA Blend Filaments

In this category, the materials  blended with PLA are used not for any mechanical properties or improvements of the appearance but just for novelty value. For example, some materials will produce a pleasant smell. K

Before using novelty PLA blends, check that they are compatible with your printer.

PLA Blends for Scent

  • 1. PLA/Beer Blend

Beer Blend

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This blend will make your product smell like beer during and after the printing process. This blend adds noting more than beer scent to your object.

  • 2. PLA/Coffee Blend

Coffee Blend

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This PLA blend produces a coffee scent during and after the printing process. The strongest scent is given off when the filament is melting.

You, probably, would not use this novelty blend that much when printing, unless you want everything coming out of your 3D printer to smell like coffee. A good example of things you can print with this blend are the items used in a  coffee shop.

PLA Blends for Appearance

  • 1. Color Changing PLA 

Color Changing PLA 

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There are two types of filaments that can be used to make an object change its color. One changes color depending on the temperature and the other changes color depending on the amount of UV light in the printed object.

Color changing PLA blends come handy when you want your objects to be vividly colorful. For example, you can use the PLA to print a car model that is red on the outside and a different color inside.

Color changing filaments are great for adding some color to your models.

Final Verdict

There are various types of PLA filaments that you can use to print 3D objects. To achieve a specific finish on your model, you can use one of the filament blend types above. Remember, you may have to sand metal or wood PLA objects after printing to give them some sparkle.

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