Polylactic acid

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3D Printed Skull Image credit: Nevit Dilmen


A biodegradable a thermoplastic polyester made from renewable resources, such as beet, corn starch, cassava roots, or surgarcane. Polylactic acid was first developed in the 1980s in Japan. By 2010 it was the second most used bioplastic in the world. Polylactic acid is made by the polymerization of lactic acid and the ester lactide. The resultant polyester can be formed into fibers, sheets, and molded products. Early uses included absorbable sutures and dissolvable medical implants, but the product quickly expanded into the area of biodegradable consumer products such as cups, bottles, bags, and containers. It commonly used as feedstock 3d printing, either as the final product or as a mold that is later burnt out in a furnace.

  • For polylactic acid fiber identification, see hhttp://cameo.mfa.org/wiki/Category:FRIL:_Polylactic_Acid_Fiber

Synonyms and Related Terms

Poly(lactic) acid; PLA; polylactide


Personal and Collection Risks

AMPolymer.com: SDS

Environmental Risks

PLA is biodegradable but can also be recycled, either chemically or mechanically. It is used as an alternative to ABS (in 3D printing), cellophane (in packaging) and shellac (as a biologically derived coating).

Physical and Chemical Properties

Soluble in chlorinated solvents, hot benzene, tetrahydrofuran and dioxane. Insoluble in water.

CAS 26100-51-6
Melting Point 130-180 C
Glass transition 60-65 C
Density 1.210-1.430 g/ml