A massive number of new FFF 3D printing materials are released every year with a huge range of different properties and capabilities. The Ultimaker Marketplace alone contains over 250 materials. Despite this, regular PLA is still by far the most popular FFF material by a wide margin due to its low cost, high availability, and most of all, how easy it is to print.
There is just one problem, PLA is limited in the practical ways it can be used due to its poor mechanical properties. In order to try and solve this problem, we released a new material in 2018, Ultimaker Tough PLA. The aim was to make a material that’s suitable for printing functional prototypes, tooling, and manufacturing aids, whilst also being as easy to use as regular PLA.
We were extremely successful and since then, Tough PLA has become our second most used filament. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits that its many users have found to see what makes Ultimaker Tough PLA such an amazing material. And also, at the end, we talk about a recent release that gives you even more options for how to use Tough PLA.
The most obvious benefit of Ultimaker Tough PLA is how easy it is to print, while still providing the mechanical properties needed for functional parts.
Tough PLA is less brittle than regular PLA and has the toughness and impact resistance characteristics you would associate with a material like ABS. But, it does not suffer from the warping or delamination issues that ABS and other engineering materials are often prone to. The result is that Tough PLA can be printed on any machine that can print regular PLA and does not require a heated build chamber, abrasion-resistant nozzles, or any of the other expensive components that industrial-grade materials often require.
Even better, when printing on a dual extrusion printer like the Ultimaker S5, Tough PLA is also compatible with support materials like Ultimaker PVA and Ultimaker Breakaway.
If you want to know more about the specific characteristics of Tough PLA, you can also refer to their technical data sheets. As with all Ultimaker materials, the technical data sheets for Tough PLA list exactly which printer and settings were used so you can replicate and verify the data in them.
As with all Ultimaker materials, it’s possible to use Tough PLA on a wide range of FFF printers. But, you will always get the best results when using them on an Ultimaker printer. The reason is that Ultimaker materials used on an Ultimaker printer benefit from print profiles that have been finely tuned and extensively tested by our in-house print profile professionals. As well as seamless integration into the wider Ultimaker platform.
Being able to load up a new spool of Tough PLA into your printer, have it recognize which material has been added thanks to the NFC chip embedded into every spool of Ultimaker materials, and then have a print profile applied to your print that practically guarantees you’ll get the best print possible is a luxury that you won’t want to give up once you’ve tried it for yourself!
It’s not only easier to print with Tough PLA, but prints made using Tough PLA are also easier to post-process. Techniques like sanding and machining can help you to get your prints looking great, so that they can be used as end-use parts without some of the visual defects that can sometimes make 3D printed parts less appealing.
Other techniques like installing heat set inserts can be used to increase the functionality and reliability of printed parts well beyond what could normally be expected from a material with the cost and ease of printing that Tough PLA provides.
Finally, Ultimaker Tough PLA also has the advantage of coming in a wide variety of colors, meaning you can make better-looking end-use parts without having to paint your prints. You can also color-code your prints by function for easier categorization.
When originally released, Tough PLA was available in white, black, red, and green. Already putting them ahead of many engineering materials that are often available in only one or two colors. However, as of today, we have released 3 further colors, blue, yellow, and gray. Putting the total at seven colors. Enough to make a rainbow of Tough PLA prints.
Note: The newest Tough PLA colors require you to update the firmware on your Ultimaker printer before you can use the newest profiles for these colors. It is still possible to print with them, however, follow this guide to find out how.