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Is It Better To Print PLA Hotter or Colder?

Determine the ideal PLA print temperature with our guide. Explore the outcomes of printing too hot or cold for quality results.

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Painting temperatures for filaments such as PLA are variable, and in most cases, manufacturers recommend a range of temperatures to print your thermoplastics with. However, deciding which temperature to use – the highest, lowest, or somewhere in between – isn’t very intuitive. 

It is better to print PLA hotter than colder since too-cold printing temperatures are more likely to damage your printer. For 3D printing, you should print PLA between 180°C (356°F) and 230°C (446°F), and each filament and printer may work best at a specific temp within that range. 

Understanding the best temperatures for 3D printing is essential for printing objects correctly. Read on to learn more about the best temperatures for PLA printing, including how you can tell if it is too hot or too cold.

What Is the Optimal Temperature for Printing PLA?

3D printing temperatures vary widely depending on the type of material used, and each specific filament formula prints best when you use a particular temperature setting.

The optimal temperature for printing PLA is around 210°C (410°F). You can print the material anywhere between 180°C (356°F) and 230°C (446°F), but, generally speaking, most 3D people print PLA at 210°C (410°F). 

Heating the plastic to different levels will change the texture and accuracy.

So why is 210°C (410°F) best? When 3D printing an object, the goal that you are trying to achieve is somewhat tricky. They want the plastic to adhere to itself, requiring it to shift into a liquid form, but they also want it to maintain its structure and cohesion.

Too hot, and the filament will become too oozy, creating strings, blobs, clogs, and over-extrusion issues. If it’s hot enough, it could catch the filament on fire or char it, turning your print black. 

Too cold, and the filament won’t even make it out of the nozzle. So, finding a perfect balance is critical when 3D printing with any filament. 

However, these “perfect conditions” differ depending on the type and brand of the plastic. Certain brands, varieties, and colors have unique recommendations for ideal temperatures. That’s because the chemicals, like stabilizers, pigments, and plastics used in a filament, will change its glass transition temperature. 

It is always best to follow the manufacturer’s advice when determining the best temperature for 3D printing.

Following this advice is also essential to ensure you are using the 3D printer safely. Misusing the printer and printer materials can pose serious safety issues for the people using the printer and the printer itself.

How To Determine if PLA Is Too Hot

Understanding that there are ideal temperatures for different plastics, you might be curious about how to determine if you are using the correct temperature for your PLA. 

Fortunately, you can quickly determine if your plastic is at the wrong temperature. 

Your 3D Print Has Blobs

One easy way to tell if your PLA plastic is too hot is that it might be forming “blobs.” Liquids, as a chemical property, often join with one another chemically. For example, think of rain or dew drops. 

While some materials, such as water, are more likely to join into clusters than other things, plastic, when converted into a liquid form at too high temps, can sometimes join together and form blobs. 

The 3D Print Has Strings and Other Artifacts

Another quick way to tell if PLA is too hot is that the print is messy. If you notice that the object is not clean, there is a decent chance that the plastic is too hot. As the 3D printer moves to create the shape of your model, it might unintentionally drag hot plastic, making for a stringy print.

Any streaking, blobs or other artifacts show that the temperature is too hot. If this is the case, turn down the printer’s temperature and allow the plastic to cool slightly before resuming printing.

How To Determine if PLA Is Too Cold

Now that we understand the issues associated with PLA plastic being too hot when 3D printing, let’s look at how you can tell if PLA temperatures are too cold. 

Your 3D Print Has Layer Adhesion Issues

The easiest way to determine that your PLA print temperature is too cold is that there will be adhesion issues.

If you notice that layers of PLA are not sticking to one another, this is a likely symptom of the plastic being too cold. 

When this occurs, your previous layers will rapidly reach room temperature, solidifying them before you make it to the next layer. When this happens, layer adhesion suffers, as there won’t be anything for your new layers to stick to. 

This quick cooling can make it so that two layers are entirely unattached or specific areas of your print are too brittle to be functional.

You Are Experiencing First Layer Adhesion Issues

Another way you can tell if your PLA is too cold is that it will not stick to the printing surface. PLA doesn’t require a heated print bed, but if your printer has one and the plastic is not sticking to the bed, the temperature is too cold. 

Your Printer is Under-Extruding or Clogging

Additionally, under-extrusion or frequent clogging can signify low print temperatures, as a cold heater block might limit filament flow.

An under-extruded 3D print will have layer adhesion issues, but it will also have layer width and thickness issues. In the worst cases, your print will come out with minimal contact between each layer on the X and Y axis, giving solid surfaces a spaghetti-like consistency and little to no structural integrity. 

While it’s important to note that these symptoms are not always signs of issues with plastic temperature, they often represent such issues.

Final Thoughts

When using PLA in a 3D printer, it is essential to use the proper temperature to ensure the print is in the best possible condition. You should print PLA at around 210°C (410°F) as a general rule, but the temperature should always be between 180°C (356°F) and 230°C (446°F) to get the best print on your first try.

Different materials and kinds of plastic require different temperatures, so it is vital to consult the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding temperature. If you find the plastic exhibits any of the symptoms above, try changing the temperature of your print.

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About Ben

I started 3D printing since 2013 and have learned a lot since then. Because of this I want to share my knowledge of what I have learned in the past years with the community. Currently I own 2 Bambulab X1 Carbon, Prusa SL1S and a Prusa MK3S+. Hope you learn something from my blog after my years of experience in 3D printing.