Maintenance and Storage of PLA Filament
If you’re an avid user of PLA filament for 3D printing, you know how important it is to properly maintain and store your filament. PLA (polylactic acid) is a popular choice among 3D printing enthusiasts due to its ease of use, low odor, and biodegradable nature. However, like any other material, PLA filament requires proper care to ensure optimal printing results and a longer shelf life. In this blog post, we’ll explore some essential tips for storing and maintaining your PLA filament.
How to Store PLA Filament Properly
Storing PLA filament correctly is crucial to prevent moisture absorption and maintain its quality. Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Keep it in a dry environment: PLA filament is hygroscopic, meaning it readily absorbs moisture from the air. To prevent this, store your PLA filament in a cool and dry place, away from direct sunlight, humidity, and moisture sources. Airtight containers or resealable bags are excellent options for storage.
- Use desiccant packs: To further minimize moisture absorption, include desiccant packs or silica gel packets in the storage containers. These packs help absorb excess moisture and keep the filament dry.
- Avoid temperature extremes: PLA filament is sensitive to temperature changes. High temperatures can cause the filament to warp or deform, while low temperatures can make it brittle. Aim to store your PLA filament between 20°C and 30°C (68°F and 86°F) for optimal performance.
- Prevent dust accumulation: Dust and debris can affect the quality of your prints. To keep your PLA filament clean, store it in a dust-free environment. You can also consider using filament dust covers or dust filters to protect the filament while it’s in use or storage.
Preventing Moisture Absorption in PLA Filament
As mentioned earlier, PLA filament readily absorbs moisture, which can negatively impact its printability. To prevent moisture absorption, consider the following measures:
- Dry filament before use: If you suspect that your PLA filament has absorbed moisture, it’s essential to dry it before printing. This can be done using a filament dryer or by placing the filament in an oven at a low temperature (around 50°C or 122°F) for a few hours. However, be cautious not to exceed the recommended temperature to avoid damaging the filament.
- Invest in a filament storage system: There are various filament storage systems available in the market designed to maintain the optimal environment for your filament. These systems often include moisture control features such as temperature and humidity monitoring, airtight containers, and built-in desiccant compartments.
Extending the Shelf Life of PLA Filament
By following proper maintenance and storage practices, you can extend the shelf life of your PLA filament. Here are a few additional tips to consider:
- Rotate your filament: If you have multiple spools of PLA filament, it’s a good practice to rotate their usage. This helps prevent any one spool from sitting unused for an extended period, reducing the risk of moisture absorption.
- Avoid direct contact with surfaces: When placing your PLA filament on a surface, avoid direct contact with bare wood or metal. These materials can sometimes contain moisture, which may transfer to the filament. Consider using a filament holder or rack with non-absorbent materials like plastic or glass.
- Clean the printer’s filament path: Over time, dust and debris can accumulate in the printer’s filament path, leading to clogs and poor print quality. Regularly clean the filament path and remove any residual filament particles or obstructions to ensure smooth filament feeding.
Handling and Care for PLA Filament Spools
In addition to storage and maintenance, proper handling and care for your PLA filament spools are essential. Consider the following tips:
- Handle the spool with clean hands: Before touching the filament, ensure that your hands are clean and free from oils or dirt. Contaminants on your hands can transfer to the filament and affect its printability.
- Avoid sudden tension or jerks: When unwinding or handling the filament, avoid sudden tension or jerks. PLA filament can be brittle, and excessive force can cause it to snap or break.
- Use a filament guide: To ensure smooth and even filament feeding, consider using a filament guide or a filament guide tube. These accessories help prevent filament tangling or twisting during the printing process.
By following these tips for storage, maintenance, and handling, you can optimize the lifespan and performance of your PLA filament. Remember, proper care and attention to detail will result in better 3D prints and a more enjoyable printing experience overall.
Here is another great explainer if you need to keep your filaments dry.