3D Filament 3D Print

Plastic Curiosities 3D – Origin and History of Materials

Curiosity about the plastic used in 3D printing.  Do you know the origin and history of the materials you use to print?

PLA (Polylactic Acid)


The PLA, as innovative as it may seem, is certainly, among the polymers used in 3D printing, the oldest! It has existed since time immemorial because it is the composed form of a substance that we ourselves have in the body and produce: lactic acid!
Now don’t start squatting in an exaggerated way to produce your own filaments. Just curiosity.
Another curiosity that may seem strange is that the liquid form of PLA is used as a filler for cosmetic medicine interventions. It is injected under the skin and its presence stimulates the production of collagen. After 4/6 weeks you will have a smoother face than to print it with smoother on the drivers of your 32-bit card.


Polylactic acid is biodegradable and can be compostable. It is biodegradable because it is completely assimilated by naturally occurring microorganisms and enters the microbial food chain as food. This complete microbial assimilation is measured by the total conversion of the carbon present in the carbon dioxide.
For the compostable, the rules are slightly different. In addition to being biodegradable due to the effect of microorganisms, compostable plastics must also obey a time factor. These materials biodegrade in an industrial composter in less than 180 days. Industrial composter means: constant temperature above 60°C, controlled humidity and presence of microorganisms. Compostable plastics do not release fragments that persist for more than 12 weeks in the residue, do not contain heavy metals or toxins and support the life of plants.

Plastic Curiosities: ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)

ABS is a polymer that is quite old in design. Before being used as the first mass-produced product in 3D printing, it was used to produce a large number of everyday objects. Many musical instruments that had to be rigid and light, such as the flute and clarinet, are normally made with ABS. Golf also used this material, until the late 80’s the heads of the woods were created with maple wood. To give more stability to the lower part of the head, an ABS insole was applied. Also used in the production of helmets for many sports, motorcycles, canyoning, cycling, etc. …

The LEGO world itself owes a lot to this polymer. All the bricks are made of ABS, and it is thanks to the properties of this material that to separate 2 thin pieces of 1 you need an energy equal to a nuclear head of medium power.

In all probability if you have a color tattoo you have ABS in your body, especially if you have used American colors. Granules below the micrometer have the particular property of making the inks more vivid and therefore more “colored”.

Serious digression

Concerns have been raised about airborne concentrations of fine suspended particulate matter (PTS) generated during ABS printing, as PTS have been linked with adverse health effects. Source Wikipedia.


Plastic Curiosities: Nylon

We have already talked about this material in this other article with regard to properties. Now we are talking about history.
With a patent dating back to about 80 years ago (1937) of Wallace Carothers, who committed suicide in the same year, this fiber is still among the most widespread in the world. The trade name was formed on the cast of rayon, artificial fiber but not yet synthetic, name in turn traced on the English term for cotton: cotton. The etymology of Nylon remains uncertain and legendary, some have even thought of the initials of New York and London.


The first use of nylon was to replace animal bristles in toothbrushes. Subsequently, nylon was widely used in the production of women’s socks. During the Second World War the use of nylon was extended to other items of clothing and especially to the manufacture of parachutes. Japan, aligned in the opposite faction to the USA, no longer exported its precious silk and therefore for civil and war uses the use of this synthetic material took over.  There are also those who say that the current name stands for “now you lose old Nippon” which translated “now you have lost, old Japan”.


Plastic Curiosities: TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane)

Little to say about this polymer, except that studies on this material were started at the same time as the nylon, but it was marketed only about twenty years later.
It is a ubiquitous and most used plastic polymer in any field (elastic bands of various kinds, gaskets, soft parts of toys, bumpers for smartphones, clothing and accessories, medical items). It is one of the two components (together with polyester) of Alcantara.


Plastic Curiosities: ASA (Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate)

A polymer very similar to ABS, it is progressively replacing it, not just in 3D printing. As well as not smelling as bad as ABS when heated, this new polymer has qualities that have immediately fascinated the industry in general and the automotive industry in particular. It has qualities of mechanical resistance, aesthetics and brilliance but, above all, resistance to atmospheric agents, including UV rays. It has the property of not being damaged by the action of sunlight. For this property, combined with the excellent impact resistance FORD, already a few years (2014) uses this plastic instead of ABS for the unpainted bumpers and dashboards of their cars.


If you also have some curiosities about the plastics that we use daily, you can tell us in the comments!

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