PLA vs. PLA+ – Differences & Is It Worth Buying?


When looking at PLA filament, I came across another filament called PLA+ and wondered how it was really different. This put me on a search to find the differences between them and whether it was worth buying.

PLA & PLA+ have many similarities but the main differences between these two are the mechanical properties and ease of printing. PLA+ holds up more durable than PLA but some people have run into trouble getting it to print. Overall, I would recommend buying PLA+ to print with over PLA.

In the rest of this article, I’ll go into some details about these differences and try to figure out if it’s actually worth buying PLA+ over PLA

What is PLA?

PLA, also known as Polylactic Acid is a thermoplastic which is one of the most commonly used filaments in FDM 3D printers.PLA is made from compounds from starch of corn and sugar cane.

This makes it an eco-friendly and biodegradable plastic.

It is the cheapest printing material available in the market. When you purchase an FDM printer which comes with filament, it’ll always be PLA filament and for good reason.

The temperature required to print this material is low compared to the rest and doesn’t even need a heated bed to print with, but can sometimes be used to help it stick down to the bed.

So not only is it easy to print with, but it is very safe to print with unlike some other 3D printing materials.

What is PLA plus (PLA+)?

PLA plus is a slightly modified version of PLA that eliminates some negatives of normal PLA.

With PLA plus this can be avoided. PLA plus have is said to be much stronger, less brittle, more durable and has a better layer adhesion compared to PLA. PLA plus is made by adding certain additives and modifiers into normal PLA to enhance it.

Most of these additives are not known perfectly as different manufacturers use different formulas for this purpose.

Differences Between PLA and PLA+

Quality

Overall PLA plus definitely produces high quality prints compared to PLA. As the name suggests it is a reinforced version of PLA to get the best from it. The PLA plus print models also have a smooth and fine finish compared to PLA.

If you are trying to get the highest quality prints, PLA+ should do you well as long as you tune up your settings since they vary from normal PLA. With a bit of trial and error you can begin to see some great quality.

Strength

The strength possessed by PLA+ makes it a suitable material for printing functional parts. In the case of normal PLA, it is not advised to print functional parts as it lacks strength and flexibility for this purpose. In all honesty, PLA can hold up pretty well as long as the load bearing isn’t too high.

One of the main reasons for the demand of PLA plus in the market is its strength and durability compared to PLA. When it comes to certain prints, the strength can be very important, for example, a TV or monitor mount.

You definitely wouldn’t want to use PLA for that, but PLA+ would be a much healthier candidate strength-wise to hold up. PLA gets brittle under certain conditions, so using it in some cases wouldn’t be a good idea.

Flexibility

PLA+ dominates over PLA in this area. PLA+ is much more flexible and less brittle than PLA. Normal PLA can snap of quickly under high pressure whereas PLA plus tends to withstand this due to its flexibility.

It’s specifically made to improve on the downfalls that PLA had as a 3D printed material, flexibility being one of them.

Price

PLA plus is much costlier compared to normal PLA. This is due to the advantages it comes with compared to normal PLA. The price for PLA among different companies is the almost same but the price of PLA+ can vary drastically among various companies.

Different companies use different additives in their products. Each companies focus on enhancing different aspects of their version of PLA+.

Your average PLA isn’t the same across the board, but generally they have a lot more similarities between brands compared to PLA+

A standard roll of PLA would set you back anywhere from $20/KG to $30/KG, while PLA+ would be in the range of $25/KG, up to $35/KG.

OVERTURE PLA+ is one of the most popular listings on Amazon and it’s found in a price around $30.

Color

Being the most popular filament, normal PLA definitely has more colors than PLA+ so it takes the win in this category.

From looking at YouTube videos, Amazon listings and filament from different brands, PLA always has a wide selection of colors to choose from. PLA+ is more specialized and doesn’t have the same level of demand as PLA so you don’t get as many color options.

I think as times progress, these PLA+ color options are expanding so you won’t find it hard to get yourself a specific color of PLA+.

Matter Hacker’s has their version of PLA+ called Tough PLA which only has 18 listings, while PLA has 270 listings!

A quick search on Amazon for that gold, silky PLA+ color does come up, but only for one listing and low in stock! Check it out for yourself, Supply3D Silk PLA Plus.

If you go to other individual companies other than Amazon then you can find some luck with certain colors, but it will be more time-consuming, in finding it and possibly in stock and delivery.

You might find it difficult to find you some TTYT3D Silk Shiny Rainbow PLA+ filament but the TTYT3D Silk Shiny Rainbow PLA version is very popular and available.

Temperature Resistance

PLA is quite well-known for its low printing temperature and low temperature resistance when it comes to 3D printing. If you have a project for a 3D printing part which might be outside or require being around heat, you wouldn’t recommend PLA.

It’s ideal in so far that it requires a lower printing temperature, so it’s quicker, safer and easier to print, but for resisting heat it doesn’t do the best job.

Although it won’t exactly melt under any form of heat, it does hold up very well in above average conditions.

PLA can lose its strength when exposed to higher temperature whereas PLA plus can withstand it to a higher extend. This also makes PLA not a suitable option for outdoor use.

PLA+ on the other hand has seen a vast improvement in its temperature resistance level, to a point where you can safely use it outdoors.

Storing

Storing PLA filament is very difficult as it can wear of quickly due to absorption of moisture. Due to this reason, PLA filaments should be stored in less humid region with normal temperatures.

Certain parts of the US have conditions where PLA just wouldn’t hold up too well so keep that in mind when deciding between the two.

Most companies ship a spool of PLA filament in vacuum seals with desiccant in it. If not stored properly PLA can become brittle over time and break off.

PLA plus is resistant to most of the external conditions and it is much easier to store compared to PLA. PLA+ definitely wins in the storage category and general resistance against environmental affects.

Ease of Printing

This is the area where normal PLA dominates over PLA plus. PLA is much easier to print compared to PLA plus because PLA requires a lower extrusion temperature to print compared to PLA plus.

Another reason is that PLA can give better adhesion to the build platform in low print bed temperature; whereas PLA plus requires more. PLA plus is much more viscous (rate of flow of a fluid) when heated compared to normal PLA. This increases the chances of clogging of nozzle more in PLA plus.

Which is Worth Buying?

The answer to this question solely depends on your requirement. If you are planning to build a functional model, then it is better to use PLA plus for all its properties discussed above.

PLA plus can also be used as a less toxic eco-friendly substitute for ABS. On the other hand if you are planning to print a reference or visualization model, PLA would be a better economical option.

If you’re looking for the top brands to purchase some high quality, well-priced PLA (Amazon links) I would look towards:

If you’re looking for the top brands to purchase some high quality, well-priced PLA+ I would look towards:

These are all reliable brands which have been a staple in the 3D printing community when it comes to stress-free filament to print with, so take your pick! Like most people, after choosing a few types of filament and seeing the color options, you’ll soon find your personal favorite.

Customer’s Opinion on PLA & PLA+

It’s great seeing the reviews and pictures from Amazon that express how happy they were with their PLA and PLA+ filament. A majority of the reviews you’ll see will be singing praises for the filament and very little critical reviews.

The guidelines which are set between 3D filament manufacturers are at a point where things print very smoothly. They use lasers to determine the width or tolerance levels of their filament, which ranges from 0.02-0.05mm.

You’ll be happy to know that these filament brands have a useful warranty and satisfaction guarantee against their products, so you don’t have to worry about any funny business.

You can purchase your PLA and PLA plus and have peace of mind all the way through the delivery through to the printing process.

Some companies have mastered their way of making PLA plus by using the right additives and things only improve as time goes on.

I hope this article helped clarify the differences between PLA and PLA plus, helping you to make your decision on which one to purchase for your 3D printing journey. Happy printing!

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