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Is Transparent PLA Filament Stronger?

Oct 11,2023 | 3D4Create

I. Introduction

With the growing popularity of clear 3D printer filament, a common question is whether transparent PLA is actually stronger than regular opaque PLA filament

In this guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at the properties of transparent PLA and how it compares to opaque PLA in terms of strength, durability, and performance for 3D printing.

Transparent/Clear 3D Printing – The Ultimate Guide | All3DP Pro

Prints made by clear 3D filament (photo: ALL3DP


II. Properties of Transparent PLA

Before comparing strength, let’s first review some of the basic properties of transparent PLA filament:

1. Clarity

Transparent PLA filament provides very high optical clarity and transparency relative to other 3D printing materials such as generic PLA and ABS. This makes it perfect for applications where seeing through the object is desirable.

2. Strength

The tensile strength and impact resistance of transparent PLA is comparable to generic PLA. Both typically range between 20-70 MPa tensile strength.

3. Printability

Transparent PLA prints very similarly to opaque PLA with similar optimal nozzle and bed temperatures. Good cooling is critical for the best clarity.


III. How Transparent PLA Compares to Opaque PLA

Now let’s look at some of the factors that determine strength and see how transparent PLA stacks up:

1. Tensile Strength

The tensile strength, or resistance to breaking under tension, is very similar between transparent and opaque PLA according to most data. Both exhibit typical tensile strength in the range of 36-46 MPa.

2. Impact Resistance

Transparent PLA maintains close to the same impact resistance as opaque PLA. The fracture toughness, which determines impact strength, is nearly identical.

3. Layer Adhesion

The layer adhesion of transparent PLA is also comparable to opaque PLA when printed at optimal settings. Proper cooling promotes layer bonding with transparent filament.

Transparent 3D Printer Filament PLA


IV. Factors Affecting Strength of Transparent PLA

While transparent PLA matches opaque PLA’s baseline strength characteristics, real-world strength depends on these factors:

1. Infill Percentage

Higher infill percentages greatly improve strength for both opaque and transparent PLA 3D prints. Max infill provides the best strength.

2. Print Settings

Dialing in proper print temperatures, speeds, cooling, etc. ensures good layer adhesion with transparent PLA for full strength.

3. Annealing

The process of annealing can significantly increase the strength of printed transparent PLA parts vs opaque PLA.

Transparent FDM 3D Prints are Clearly Stronger! — CNC Kitchen

Compasison of cooling and no cooling clear PLA


V. Taking Advantage of Transparent PLA Strength

Here are some examples of applications that leverage the high strength potential of transparent PLA:

1. Functional Parts

Mechanical parts like gears, cogs, clamps, and fixtures can be 3D printed with transparent PLA for visual aesthetics and full strength.

2. Tools

Transparent PLA allows creating durable but see-through tools like levels, squares, measuring devices, and workshop jigs.

3. Drone Components

Lightweight drone frames, arms, and components can be 3D printed with transparent PLA for high strength and visibility.


VI. Tips for Printing Strong Transparent PLA

Follow these tips to maximize the strength of your transparent PLA 3D prints:

1. Optimize Cooling

Proper cooling minimizes layer deformation and improves interlayer adhesion for the best clarity and strength. Use multiple fans for small prints.

2. Lower Speeds

Slower printing speeds between 25-50mm/s gives each layer more time to solidify before the next layer is deposited.

3. Increase Infill

Higher infill percentages greatly improve the strength of printed parts. For maximum strength, use 100% infill for any load-bearing components.

True Transparent Parts From A Desktop 3D Printer | Hackaday

True Transparent Parts From A Desktop 3D Printer (photo: Hackaday)


VII. Conclusion

In general, transparent PLA provides a similar baseline of tensile strength, impact resistance, and layer adhesion as opaque PLA. Transparent PLA can produce exceptionally strong prints when optimized print settings are used and the right post-processing steps like annealing are applied. 



Q: Is transparent PLA brittle?

A: Yes, transparent PLA filament is generally more brittle compared to opaque PLA. The additives or modifications used to achieve transparency can affect the material's flexibility and make it more prone to breaking under stress.

Q: What is the difference between transparent and translucent PLA?

A: Transparent PLA allows a clear view through the printed object, similar to glass, providing high light transmission. Translucent PLA allows light to pass through but diffuses it, creating a semi-opaque appearance with some visibility.

Q: What is the strongest PLA filament?

A: PLA filaments reinforced with additives like carbon fiber, glass fiber, or metal powder tend to offer increased strength compared to standard PLA. 

See Also:

Everything You Need to Know About Clear 3D Printer Filament