You may have already experienced how much fun it is to bring your ideas to life by 3D printing your favorite action figures, machine parts, or board games to play with your friends and family. The filament most frequently used in printing is PLA; we bet you’re familiar with it.
While PLA has many advantages over other kinds of filament, it can occasionally affect your prints in a minor way. The development of bumps and jagged edges on patterns are two problems that most people complain about. You would always want the best print quality possible if you were a 3D printing enthusiast, and fortunately, it is possible!
As a soluble filament, PLA can be dissolved in a suitable solvent to produce flawless prints. To learn how to dissolve PLA, continue reading this guide.
Chemicals Used to Dissolve and Smooth PLA
1. Dissolving PLA with Ethyl Acetate
The best solvent to dissolve PLA is ethyl acetate. It disintegrates PLA with ease. Once you use ethyl acetate, it will quickly dissipate into the air because it evaporates quickly. Remember to handle chemicals in a well-ventilated area to avoid unnecessarily breathing in fumes.
Although ethyl acetate is not toxic, it has the potential to cause cancer and is easily absorbed through the skin. Like ABS prints are smoothed with acetone if you don’t want to dissolve PLA fully, PLA prints can also be smoothed with minimal amounts of ethyl acetate.
2. Dissolving PLA with Caustic Soda
While sodium hydroxide or caustic soda also effectively dissolves PLA, they are extremely basic and must be handled cautiously. Caustic soda can be used to dissolve PLA by making an alkaline solution by mixing it with water and then soaking the PLA component in the solution.
You can simply pour the solution down the drain after some time has passed and the lactic acid has saponified.
Caustic soda is corrosive due to its highly basic nature, so you should handle it cautiously. Caustic soda will not be used at home.
3. Dissolving PLA with Acetone
Acetone does not dissolve PLA very well. Acetone will not react with pure PLA, but there may be some effects if there are some impurities. The best method for dissolving ABS is to use acetone because it is more efficient than ethyl acetate.
Again, put safety first! If the area isn’t well-ventilated, don’t try this.
4. Dissolving PLA with Methylamine
PLA can also be dissolved in water by methylamine, which you probably recognize from Breaking Bad. If you don’t have the necessary tools, like a fume hood, you shouldn’t use methylamine at home because it releases fumes that can irritate your eyes and lungs.
PLA can be dissolved in a water-methylamine solution.
5. Dissolving PLA with Tetrahydrofuran
Another substance that can be used to dissolve PLA entirely is tetrahydrofuran. It functions best in industries similar to MEK. There are several reasons why this additional hazardous chemical shouldn’t be used at home. Its flashpoint is incredibly low. Therefore, it is a chemical that is flammable. It can ignite at the slightest provocation, eliminating it from the best options for dissolving PLA in the home. Although the vapor of this chemical dissolves PLA and gives it a nice appearance, it is harmful to human health. Therefore, if you must use this chemical, make sure to do so while wearing a protective mask. You would take precautions to avoid breathing in the harmful fumes.
6. Dissolving PLA with Dichloromethane
Some paint strippers contain the chemical dichloromethane as their main component. It’s difficult to locate, but if you can find some, it works well with PLA and PLA+.
Dichloromethane can be used to join PLA components. With just a little bit, you can make the plastic sticky to join two pieces together. After the plastic reforms, the connection between the two parts will be reasonably solid.
7. Dissolving PLA with Methyl ethyl ketone (MEK)
PLA can be dissolved by this solvent. However, reputable scientists strongly discourage using this solvent. They assert that MEK is extremely dangerous. It belongs to the group of hazardous chemicals. It only works well for specific industries; even then, only professionals should handle it. It is dangerous, so don’t try to use it at home.
8. Dissolving PLA with Isopropyl Alcohol
In contrast to most PLA, Polymaker PLA dissolves in isopropyl alcohol when used with Polymaker’s specialized smoothing tool.
The Polysher is a machine that spins your Polymaker PLA parts in a mist of water and isopropyl alcohol (90% isopropyl alcohol) to smooth the print surfaces.
Dissolving takes smoothing a step further, but they are essentially equivalent processes.
If you don’t want to spend the money on a smoothing machine, you could simply mist Polymaker PLA parts with a mixture of water and 90 % isopropyl alcohol. Although you won’t get quite the same outcomes, it will work for simple smoothing.
9. Dissolving PLA with Support Material
Dissolving support material is among the most frequent reasons given for wishing to dissolve PLA. Some supporting material is left stuck to the 3D print when broken off because the breaks are not always very clean.
Additionally, if your configuration is poor, you might notice that the layers directly above the support are poorly formed and that the layer lines are much more evident than elsewhere.
10. Smoothing PLA
Although using chemicals to dissolve PLA is the simpler and faster method, you cannot ignore the possibility that doing so could be bad for your health and the environment. You would primarily need to dissolve your PLA to smooth it out. Your 3D-printed objects will be flawless once you smooth out your PLA. You can still smooth out your PLA without chemicals or chemistry assistance. Here are a few methods for dissolving PLA without the use of chemicals.
PLA Welding: Weaving the PLA surface is a non-chemical way to smooth it. After printing your object, the result would be slick and perfect. Additionally, you won’t have to come into contact with any chemicals that could potentially cause your skin to react negatively, making it a much safer option. You’ll need PLA-welding tools, such as a drilling machine or a Dremel, to manipulate a PLA surface. If you don’t have access to either of these tools, you can still use a rotating object to manipulate the PLA surface.
Another excellent way to get a smooth finish on your 3D-printed object is to use a primer spray immediately after sanding the PLA surface. Apply the primer spray once your object has been printed. You could achieve your desired result using a sandable primer spray. Although a primer spray contains chemicals, it is not as potent or harsh as other chemical solvents typically used to dissolve PLA. It would not make you react negatively to it and is much safer.
Best Software for 3D Modeling and Slicing Design: SelfCAD
There are various 3D modeling software available, but we recommend using SelfCAD. SelfCAD is a powerful 3D character creator that provides a wealth of tools and features to enhance your 3D printing experience. The following are SelfCAD’s primary features:
1. Simple yet powerful interface: SelfCAD’s user interface is intuitive, making it effortless for anyone to produce high-quality models right away. Additionally, it has a comprehensive online help system that walks users through learning all its features step-by-step.
2. Advanced tools: SelfCAD offers advanced features like sculpting, texturing, rendering, freehand drawing, and sketching tools, in addition to the fundamental modeling implements provided by most CAD programs. This frees you from worrying about technical details while creating complex models quickly and easily.
3. Compatibility: All popular CAD software is compatible with SelfCAD, making it simple to move your models between applications for additional editing or printing. Besides, you can be confident that your prints will turn out beautifully because SelfCAD’s 3D slicer is compatible with all major 3D printers. Whether you have the best 3D printer under 500 or even the one that is worth thousands of dollars, you will be able to use it to generate the G-code to use in your machine.
4. Affordability: SelfCAD is among the most cost-effective 3D modeling programs on the market, making it a great option for designers on a limited budget.
5. Free updates: SelfCAD frequently releases new updates and features accessible to all users and provided without charge. Thanks to the upkeep of the software, you will always have access to the most recent tools and features.
As you can see, dissolving PLA filament can be done in a variety of ways to produce 3D prints of flawless quality.
All available methods have been evaluated and found to produce pleasing outcomes. Of course, you don’t have to use every technique at once.
Choose the strategy you believe will be most convenient for you. You can gradually try the remaining techniques to see if there are any differences.
Share this guide with your friends if they have similar PLA problems to learn how to dissolve PLA and get perfect prints.