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Q&A

Is PLA suitable for outdoor gear use in the sun?

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I have a 3d printer, and right now I am only using PLA which has a relatively low melting temperature (hot car in the sun or dishwasher would be enough to warp it).

I am interested in printing some gear parts like trekking pole baskets or contoured maps or scope covers, is PLA going to warp from just being in the sun on a hot summer day?

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The glass transition temperature of PLA is around 60 C/140 F. It's unlikely to warp from direct sunlight alone, but PLA has two other characteristics that make it unsuitable for printing gear:

  1. PLA is brittle. Where something printed from PETG or ABS would flex and absorb a blow, PLA will crack.
  2. PLA is highly susceptible to creep. A constant force on a piece of PLA will cause it to flow, permanently changing the shape of the part.
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Are you saying its unsuitable or that PETG/ABS/Nylon would be better? Most of the current development of 3d printed firearms is done in PLA or PLA+ and lasts 1,000 plus rounds Charlie Brumbaugh‭ 3 months ago

Unsuitable, but not for the reason you were concerned about. As far as I know, long-lasting printed firearms use steel for the barrel, which is the highest-stress part of the gun. PLA is quite strong (stronger than PETG), so as long as you can avoid stress concentrations or continuous loads, it's a decent choice of material. Mark‭ 2 months ago

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