Vapors of most heated plastics are very toxic! Check with any chemist who does not work for the plastics or pesticide industries. Treat this process with the same respect you would auto exhaust or petroleum-based solvents, since that is essentially what these materials are. Good ventilation is a must!
Here's an example of PLA being used for large-scale 3D printing of architectural structures: http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/design-architecture/in-amsterdam-worlds-first-mobile-3d-printing-pavilion/8736
I've been working on a feature on 3D printing and 3D content creation tools (stayed tuned in November) and I've been talking to a lot of engineers who use the lower end 3D printers either on the job or increasingly in their home, for hobbyist/side business purposes. Consistently, most talk about some of the messiness of traditional 3D printers (I hadn't heard about the smell) and perhaps the choice of PLA is better suited to home/hobbyist use as opposed to an office or shop floor environment. What are others experience with 3D printers on the lower end? They look like office printers, but they don't seem quite as packaged. Let us know.
While I do agree that it does not use ABS, I still marvel at the price point of this 3D printer and the ever decreasing cost of this technology. I remember when the lowest price 3D printers were still well into 6-figures. I look forward to continuous technology and material improvements with these types of printers in the near future.
If PLA is supposedly so difficult to use, I wonder why it's so common in lower-end 3D printing? As Beth's article states, "PLA was chosen because of its strength and ability to make very large prints without cracking or warping." I also suspect some people are a lot more sensitive to the smell than others.
Based on what was said in that video, it is a bit surprising. I found a wiki page on Makerbot's site that provides some insight into their choice of PLA and provides some hands-on perspective from Makerbot users. http://wiki.makerbot.com/pla
Beth, thanks for finding that candid discussion on YouTube – I watched the entire thing, and now have very little faith in PLA, from what the guys were saying. In a Nutshell, its less heat tolerant, less process capable, less robust, so why would they use it-? Only because it doesn't smell as bad as ABS during processing. To me, that's a pretty weak reason for choosing a material. I've been in Injection-mold production press rooms running ABS, and while the odor there is strong, its not intolerable. Maybe the MakerBot apparatus really brings the 'Stink" out of it!
Thanks, Beth, for that video. I got about half way through it. The guy being interviewed, who designed a 3D printer kit, says PLA vs ABS is easier to print with, harder to drill, and doesn't take the high temps that ABS does. Also, that ABS's smell is really bad. He says PLA is great for prototypes, then prints the final part in ABS.
I did some googling on my own to see what others are saying about PLA and come up with this long, but interesting video on Youtube where an engineer and maker of a printer kit is talking about the tradeoffs of PLA vs. ABS and why he sees PLA as the next big thing in home printing. For what it's worth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wF-w3eT0CdY
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While many larger companies are still reluctant to rely on wireless networks to transmit important information in industrial settings, there is an increasing acceptance rate of the newer, more robust wireless options that are now available.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.