Protomaker offers both a Basic PLA and a Tough PLA. What is the difference? Which one should you get? In this article we explore the differences so you know what to get for your project.
PLA (or polylactic acid) is one of the most common materials for 3D printing. This is because of its ease of use in printing. It is a low melting point material that does not warp significantly, and it is friendly to beginners. However it suffers in strength and durability.
Tough PLA offers a PLA with significantly higher impact strength than regular PLA or even more advanced materials, while still being easy to print. So what does it mean to have higher impact strength? Impact strength looks specifically at how a material behaves when a sudden load is applied.
Traditional tensile strength is measured by pulling on a sample with a load and determining the force necessary to break it. Impact testing, however, strikes a test sample suddenly with a swinging weight. The test determines how much energy it takes to fracture the sample. This is a much more relevant piece of data when looking at how something will behave when it dropped or hit. A material that takes a lot of energy is tough, while a material that takes little is brittle. When comparing high end and low end 3D printing material, impact strength is what is going to set them apart more than regular tensile data.
Going back to the debate between Basic and Tough PLA, impact strength is what sets them apart. The Figure below shows tensile strength and impact strength for both materials. Looking at tensile strength, there is very little difference. However that is not close to the whole story! Looking at impact strength, the Tough PLA is significantly better. In fact it is nearly 15 times better! It has by far the best impact strength of any material we offer. It is better than even advanced nylon filaments.
In a static condition, both these materials will behave similarly, but if any sort of impact is going to be applied then the tough PLA wins out hands down. In most real world conditions, this is likely going to be an important factor. In addition to the higher impact strength Tough PLA also has better layer to layer adhesion.
So which material do you need? Well only you can answer that question, but Tough PLA will give you a much more durable part in most types of real world conditions. However, if you are just printing models or figurines, the additional impact strength is probably not important. At the end of the day, if you need a tough durable part that is easy to print, Tough PLA is hard to beat.