PLA is one of the most common 3D printing filaments – thanks to its ease of post-processing. The filament can be easily sanded, painted, and finished – making it ideal for a large number of projects.
It’s also one of the most common materials for food-safe and medical-grade printing. However, if you’re working with it for the first time, it can be significantly different from ABS.
For example, the ideal PLA bed temperature is 20-70° Celsius, or as little as 100°C lower than the optimum for ABS. That’s also true for the printer head, which should be set to 190-220°C.
Printing at the 230-250°C required for ABS can actually burn your filament. However, there are complications, which often depend on the brand and type of filament you’re using.
PLA Bed Temperature
PLA doesn’t require a heated bed. In fact, so long as your ambient room temperature is above 20°C or about 68° Fahrenheit, you should be able to print with PLA just fine. However, you can opt to heat the bed, especially if you’re having trouble with bed adhesion.
Here, PLA works best at under 60°C. Some people prefer to go as high as 70. However, this may cause issues with thin PLA or with some filament brands. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check the manufacturer’s recommendations.
It’s also important to keep in mind that higher temperatures will increase bed adhesion.
If your prints are sticking to the bed too much, lowering the bed temperature may resolve the issue. That’s also true if you’re having issues with the bottom layers collapsing or deforming; it’s likely because the bed is keeping the PLA too warm and it’s taking too long to set.
For the same reason, it’s usually recommended to have the fan on max, so that your PLA cools down as quickly as possible. In fact, insufficient airflow could result in warped or bent corners for your models.
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PLA Hot End Temperature
The hot end or nozzle can be kept relatively cool for PLA. In most cases, that works out to about 190-220°C, depending on factors like the thickness of the filament, what the brand recommends, and the other print settings.
Here, most users eventually start at around 200°C and then adjust down if the filament is getting too hot.
It’s also an option to change settings based on the layers you’re printing:
- First Layers – Set the nozzle to 210-220°C and the print bed temperature to 70°C. Set the fan to max. The first layer will stick very well to the print bed.
- Second Layer – Reduce the nozzle temperature by 10°C and the bed temperature by 10°C. This transition layer prevents the subsequent layers from peeling away from the first layer.
- Subsequent Layers – Continue to reduce the nozzle temperature per layer until you reach the desired print temperature. Usually, 190 is a good setting for PLA. However, you can often go as low as 180.
The most important thing for printing with PLA is not having heating turned on, it’s having cooling on. That means running fans at max and if your printer doesn’t have a good fan, upgrading it.
The faster the filament sets, the fewer issues you’ll have with deformed corners and models.
Temperature Settings For Different PLA Filaments
You can almost always check brand recommendations to find specific heat settings for different types of PLA filaments.
In addition, the following guidelines do not apply to every brand. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations.
|PLA Type||Bed (°C)||Nozzle (°C)|
Flexible PLA normally has rubber in the mix, allowing you to print models that flex without breaking. In most cases, it’s a mix of PLA and TPU, which is easy to print with and has about the same print requirements as regular PLA.
For example, most brands recommend a print temperature of 190-220°C with a bed temperature of 60°C (although a heated bed is not required) and a print speed of 40-100mm/s.
Woodfill PLA is a mix of PLA and PHA, normally made up of recycled wood fibers. The result can be very similar to wood in appearance and it can smell like wood while printing.
Here, it’s important to keep temperatures lower, as going too high can cause the wood fibers to burn.
Most manufacturers, like the original colorFabb, recommend that you use a printing temperature of 195-220°C for the nozzle. If you have a heated bed, set it between 50 and 60°C, although a heated bed is not necessary.
Finally, print at 40-100 mm/s for the best results.
MetalFill PLA or SteelFill PLA uses steel or carbon fiber molecules in the PLA. This can increase the thermal properties of the filament, meaning it’s more important to print at lower temperatures.
For this reason, most manufacturers recommend printing MetalFill PLA at 190-210°C.
In addition, if you have a heated bed, keeping it between 50 and 60 Celsius is ideal. However, you don’t need the heated bed.
How To Know If Your PLA Temperature Is Too High
If you’re printing PLA at the same temperature as ABS, you could actually burn it.
You’ll also notice other signs like:
If your prints are too warm and aren’t cooled fast enough, the model could warp as it cools.
For this reason, it’s important to have good cooling and fans in place to ensure that the layers harden as they are set.
If your PLA filament is too hot coming out of the nozzle, it might string. This creates an effect much like stretching heated mozzarella cheese – where strings of material stretch between the model and the nozzle.
Stringing can be subtle but it can also be quite extreme. However, stringing might also be an issue of print speed.
Here, you’ll get stringing if you’re printing too fast, especially if you’re printing too fast and the temperature is on the higher end.
Blobbing and Oozing
Overheated PLA bubbles, blobs, and oozes.
Here, you can normally see deformed parts in your model, you might see bubbles coming out of the nozzle, and you might have filament oozing instead of neatly laying onto the model.
In this case, the issue is always about heat – which means you should turn the temperature of the hot end down.
Artifacts in your model can be a result of overheated PLA.
Here, you’ll have bulges, bubbles, or even misprints in the model – all of which are caused by the nozzle losing precision because the filament isn’t responding as expected.
Artifacts can be caused by a large number of issues, so the cause is normally dependent on what the artifacts look like.
If you’re printing PLA at very high temperatures, it can actually start to turn brown. This is actually the plastic burning, so you’ll also likely smell it.
There are not many things other than burning that will cause your PLA to turn brown. Therefore, if you’re having this issue, reduce the temperature of the hot end.
Elephant foot is the phenomenon of the bottom layers of the model oozing out to create an overhang that looks much like an elephant’s foot. This is most often the result of the bed being too warm or the fans not cooling the plastic fast enough.
If you’re getting elephant foot, it could also be a result of other technical issues. However, you can try reducing the bed temperature, turning up the fans, or reducing the hot end temperature to see if it fixes the issue.
Bent or warped corners happen when the model doesn’t cool down quickly enough.
That could be because the bed is too warm. It might also be because the fans aren’t running enough.
Sticking to Bed
If your model is sticking to the bed too much, it could be because the bed is too warm or because the original layers are printing too hot. However, it could also be a number of other issues.
Checking the heat settings is an excellent first step when dealing with this issue.
If you still have questions about the ideal PLA bed and printing temperature, these answers may help.
Does higher bed temperature help adhesion?
Yes. However, if you increase the bed temperature too much, it will cause issues like elephant foot or the model adhering to the bed too well.
In most cases, it’s a good idea to have a bed temperature of 40-70°C for the first layer, after which the bed heating should go down to 20-40.
However, if you’re having trouble getting models to stick to the print bed, try slightly increasing the bed temperature to see if it helps.
Are PLA fumes toxic?
PLA fumes are relatively non-toxic and relatively safe. However, inhaling large amounts of fumes from PLA can be dangerous.
PLA releases volatile organic chemicals in small amounts, which can cause lung and throat irritation. PLA also releases lactide.
Here, you can consider taking safety steps, like always printing in a well-ventilated space. However, unless you’re specifically sensitive, you shouldn’t have to wear a mask or a respirator when printing with PLA.
On the other hand, if you have birds, you should most likely keep them in another room.
The ideal PLA print bed temperature is 20-60°C, although you may be able to go as high as 70°C. On the other hand, you should keep the nozzle between 180 and 210°C in most cases, although you may be able to go as high as 220. On average, it’s better to print cooler, unless your brand of PLA specifically suggests that you do something else.