Anyone working with polylacticacid - PLA?

I’ve recently come across compostable drinking straws made from pla, and was surprised by how stiff they were. I’ve found that it’s used by 3d printers, but I’m more interested in 1mm sheet, should it be available.
I don’t think I have time to convert straws to sheet of the thickness I need, so if anyone has any bright ideas, I’d love to hear them.
John :upside_down_face:

Some people have cut it (I’ve engraved on it successfully) but you’ll want to stick to acrylics. PLA melts at a fairly low heat. (Not the most stable plastic. Sit something PLA on the dashboard of your car in the sun and you’ll come back to a puddle.) :slightly_smiling_face:


It’s used in 3D printing because it’s about the easiest plastic to print. Printing temperature is low (typically around 190ºC) and it’s coefficient of thermal expansion is fairly low so you don’t need a heated build plate to keep the print from warping. Also it’s a bioplastic so it tends to be fairly inexpensive and of course, it biodegrades. It’s glass transition temp is pretty low, 60ºC or so, so if you let it get hotter than that it’ll start to flow/deform. Because it has such a low glass transition temp, if you were going to cut it with a laser I’m thinking you want high power and high speed.

As for finding a sheet, it’s available on line. for example:


You want a sheet of it? what better way than cooling a puddle?

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Yeah, you can do the same in a low temp oven, but it’s easier just to buy sheets of uniform thickness if you want it. :slightly_smiling_face:

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I was hearing that it was not so easy and thinking of all those “well that did not work” that you could recycle, And put a piece of pierced wood on it and it could fill in the holes! :grinning:

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Extra info - it needs to be close to 1mm in thickness. I want to try it as a fan stick material, therefore 1mm thick, but it’s the first synthetic thermoplastic that I’ve come across that approaches the stiffness of ivory, at these dimensions.
Believe me, I have tried a lot over the years, and adding a pigment and filler to other resins, like glassfibre and epoxy produces other problems.
It the ‘native’ stiffness that has grabbed my attention, but at about $130/4 sq ft, 3mm thick and brown as well, is not the answer.
John :upside_down_face:

Gotta be cheaper someplace. A 1KG roll of PLA filament costs me less than $50. A single 4 sqft 3mm PLA sheet is about 590CM^3 at 1.24G/CC = about 730g. So sheet cost in raw material ought to be around $40…

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Would you be interested in the challenge of making me, expenses paid, a 1mm thick layer, white/cream if you have it, about 10cms long and 1.5cms wide ?
I would assume it might have a fine ribbed appearance along its length, but that would be OK.
This would give me a test piece to hand/laser pierce for the fan stick, and see if the bulk property was the same as these extruded straws.
John :upside_down_face:

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Why not make them by 3D printing in the first place? you could do extraordinary designs and even make them hollow. Alternatively will Black Bamboo grow in your area. I have been looking to start some here that I could flatten about 1/4 circumference to cut into other things but have not found a good source of starter root as yet.

I have my ProMega but they are a lot harder to setup than a Glowforge. When I figure out how to use it I will be able to dial in any color or set of colors.

OK, so you want me to acquire yet more technology, and the skill set to go with it ?
I’m probably already the world’s oldest fan maker, but what the ****, why not.
Just don’t tell swmbo.
John :upside_down_face:


I am going there however slowly but check out

I would bet you could do that in Black Bamboo that would be both strong and stunning.

By black bamboo, I take it you mean an actual plant variety ?
Bamboo would be a desirable wood species, as has been used in fan making for about 10 centuries !
How do I get sizes as above, but in bamboo ? Slabs that could be split would be probably OK, but 20 cms lengths would be required.
John :upside_down_face:

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Black bamboo for sale
It might take ten years to have pieces that big but I have seen it 4 or 5 inches in diameter and about a foot long or more and yes older pieces are a rich brown to dark black though green while getting to maximum height in circumference that would be almost 16 inches or 4 -4" quarter circumference pieces. We might not get that from a plant in our yard right away as by bamboo standards it is slow growing but it would be worth looking for someone with a mature bunch.

And then while looking for Black bamboo I found this Purple bamboo! :heart_eyes:

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I can say without fear of repudiation that a 1mm thick layer of PLA is not going to be very stiff. If what you’re going for is a fan, it’s going to be too flexible. Bamboo will be much stiffer at 1mm…

Not black but…

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Thanks, Randy. I’m happy to take that as a great time saver for me.
I seem to have spent an awful lot of my time running down blind alleys !
John :upside_down_face:

Now if I could find bamboo as a veneer, I’d be home and dry !
1/8" thick would be perfect for the guard sticks, though.
John :upside_down_face:

EDIT I may have found it, and if they sell me a sample of 1/64", I could get to laminate my own - already have a large heat press !

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