A 3D printer has different types of filaments one can use to create a prototype of a sellable product. Each filament you use adds benefits to an item, such as less wear and tear on manufactured metal parts, but various have limitations. Conductive PLA filaments are one fiber type you could use to assist in creating conductive elements without the use of electrical cables. Continue reading for all you need to know about conductive PLA filaments.
Can PLA Filaments Conduct Electricity?
No, PLA is not a conductor on its own—and even when heated at a high temperature, it loses its ability to conduct electricity. However, it can provide electricity to applications when cool and combined with other elements.
What Is a Conductive PLA 3D Filament?
A conductive PLA 3D filament is a material capable of creating electrical currents through metal-manufactured parts without needing electrical cabling. The conductive component means that electricity flows through the material.
The Limitations of Using Conductive PLA Filament
A conductive material has drawbacks, such as not being as conductive as its name leads one to believe. Despite its name, conductive PLA offers support rather than being a reliable source to use for electricity.
Conductive PLA can power electricity to a limited number of applications. The electricity produced could only handle between 0 to 60 volts—a smartphone’s touchscreen sensor being one application that would use this voltage amount.
Additives could improve a fiber, but combining ones like carbon block, metal powder, or graphene increases the brittleness of PLA. PLA on its own is weak, and merged with other filaments refines that fragility, making it better to use in low-conductive applications.
Are Conductive PLA and ABS the Same 3D Printer Filament?
They’re two different filament types, but they do produce electricity. The biggest difference between ABS and PLA conductive 3D printer filaments is that PLA is weaker and thinner than ABS. However, even though many consider ABS brittle and rigid, it is the better plastic to use in model applications.
The Composition of Conductive PLA Filament
PLA is a very popular filament to use in 3D printing. Before learning to use PLA conductive 3D printer filament, get to know its composition.
The Composition of Conductive PLA
The PLA conductive filament’s makeup includes carbon black, graphene, and metal powder. Graphene adds a hexagonal shape of carbon atoms from a planar sheet. Each molecule has one electron that supports the transfer of electrical currents in an application. Carbon black is a pigment added to the fiber to increase the composite filament. When using metal powder, like copper or bronze, it increases the conductivity.
Why Use Conductive PLA in 3D Printing?
3D print conductive PLA filaments are a popular choice for low-range electrical applications. As previously mentioned, these filaments can transmit electric currents through their body without electrical cables. Scientists and engineers use this fiber to prevent signal disturbances with radio and electromagnetic waves.
How To Use PLA Conductive 3D Printer Filament
PLA is a great filament to use for low-range electrical applications. The electrical prototype you design may need specific configurations, such as adjusting speed and temperature settings and wall thickness on your 3D printer. Before you learn how to use a conductive PLA 3D printer filament, remember, this fiber is brittle. Before inserting the filament, gently place it into the nozzle without bending too harshly. Also, avoid using any other nozzle type if you are not using hardened steel for carbon-based conductive PLA.
Settings For PLA Conductive Filament
The settings you use for a conductive PLA filament depend on the brand. Change the bed temperature to 60 degrees Celsius and fix the filament flow to two to three millimeters (mm) to properly adjust the printer so it can create accurate designs. These general settings will help build an understanding of how to adjust your printer for conductive PLA fibers.
In general, your settings should display the following:
- The print speed of conductive filaments must be between 25 and 45 mm or 10 mm if using a metal-filled PLA.
- Adjust your extrusion width to 0.45 mm.
- You should avoid raising the extruder temperature to more than 215 degrees Celsius.
Speed and Temperature Settings
The melting point temperature and speed matter. It matters with any filament you use but can produce poor results if you use the incorrect settings. For example, a filament thread can snap if you run it too fast through the nozzle. Lowering your print speed improves the quality of your product.
Also, you could warp or burn your prototype if you don’t set the temperature right. The required temperature depends on the filament brand, and you should rely on the user’s manual to properly adjust your printer’s temperature. Side note: you should only use a printer bed for larger parts to avoid warping. Otherwise, you’re okay not to use a printer bed for your conductive filament.
Wall Thickness and Density
Wall thickness and density should be the focus of your creation process because it impacts how you plan to use the application. Your wall thickness may increase if you plan to use an electrical current from an ESD. You shouldn’t need to go over one mm on most uses for the most part.
Avoid changing the wall density. The parts can weaken if the number is less than 100%. By keeping the viscosity at 100%, you maintain the structure’s thickness so electrical currents can efficiently run through the application.
Let’s Get Printing With Filamatrix
As you’ve learned, conductive PLA is a highly useful and popular filament, but it is fragile. However, that should never stop you from trying it out. You can combine metal powder filaments with PLA 3D filaments to achieve conductive electricity for your applications.
Let’s start finding your next set of 3D printer filaments from Filamatrix. We’re a US-based company supplying valuable tips on how to get started in 3D printing, how to prevent warping, and guides with insight on different types of filaments. Contact our team today so we can help you find what you’re looking for. We’re glad to be your preferred 3D printer filament company.