There isn’t just one way to skin a cat – or should we say mold a part! Small plastic parts are the lifeline for a good portion of small to midsize molding companies. At Mainline, for example, we have produced millions of small parts and have had runs from 100 parts per project to millions of parts per project. The advantage to buying small parts from our company is that we have the capability to efficiently manufacture small quantities and provide our customers their finished product on demand. There are no minimum quantities to buy and no waiting months for products to be made and shipped from an offshore source. That keeps your capital in your business for your company to use as needed.
Whether your small part is 3D printed or injection molded, Mainline can assist you in getting you parts produced economically and on time.
Since its coming to the 3D printing scene, PLA (polylactic acid) filament has been a popular choice for users of 3D printers. With its lower melting point, a higher temperature of the build platform is not necessary as it is with ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene). Labeled as biodegradable and made with renewable resources, one would feel very confident that they are being ecologically sensitive to the pollution revolution. Can that sincerely be achievable? Let’s take a closer look at PLA.
PLA is not a newcomer to the plastics industry. Developed in the early 20th century by E.I. duPont, it was deemed to expensive to produce commercially, as other resins were made using the plentiful petroleum resources of that time. Later in the 20th century (after the oil embargo) was when PLA rose to a commercially manufactured product through the use of corn kernels, although any starch based plant such as sugar cane can be used. That solves the renewable resource question, but what about being biodegradable?
Like every other petroleum based plastic, PLA will take hundreds of years to degrade on its own when buried in a landfill. The conditions are not suitable to begin the reaction to convert it back to lactic acid. PLA will biodegrade however, in a commercial composting facility in under 6 months, but most likely will not biodegrade in a residential composting pile for a long, long time if at all. So, PLA is biodegradable, but not when tossed into your municipal recycle bin!
Even though 3D printing has been in the mix for over 30 years, only in recent times has it been made more affordable and user friendly enough for the consumer. I mean it was not breakthrough technology to combine standard printing software, which has been around for decades, with an extruder head to place molten plastic down versus ink.
The real technological work has been creating materials that change properties after being printed with 3D printers. Let’s call it 4D printing.