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Introducing Precise PLA: The Efficient Material for Concept Validation

By Daniel Lazier, Product Manager

Precise PLA lets you go from concept to production all on the same platform.

We’re pleased to announce the addition of Precise PLA to our materials portfolio! It is now even easier to prototype, create custom tooling, and fabricate end-use parts all on one platform.

What is Precise PLA?

Precise PLA is Markforged’s specialized version of one of the most common prototyping materials in the additive manufacturing industry, Polylactic Acid (PLA). Markforged will offer Precise PLA in eight color options - yellow, red, green, blue, orange, black, white, and gray. The Digital Forge has been calibrated, with changes in Eiger software, to print Precise PLA with excellent quality and repeatability. At $50 per 600cc spool Precise PLA now makes for a cost-efficient option for assessing designs using the Digital Forge.

Our engineers had fun validating Precise PLA with complex, multi-color assemblies, including this excellent excavator design from Fab365:

When Should I use Precise PLA vs Onyx™ or Continuous Fibers?

We recommend Precise PLA as a more cost-effective option for prototypes, fit checks, or any other applications that don’t need the enhanced mechanical properties of Onyx and/or continuous fiber. Additionally, the distinct colors can enhance usability and safety of shop tools and fixtures by facilitating communicative color codes.

PLA is not compatible with continuous fiber, so as a rule of thumb, if your part needs to be stronger, or more impact/heat resistant than your typical plastic, we recommend Onyx and the appropriate continuous fiber. To learn more about the many applications addressable with continuous fiber, check out this white paper. We anticipate many engineers and designers will first prototype designs using Precise PLA and then move into the production version using Onyx reinforced with continuous carbon fiber.

Precise PLA: Prototyping Plastic Done the “Markforged” Way

Our engineers and materials scientists obsess over quality. When we set out to make a more affordable plastic for prototyping, we aimed to deliver the same print quality, reliability, and ease of use our users have come to know and love with Onyx.

Zero Tolerance LLC, an injection molding and machine shop that specializes in helping manufacturers bring their products from concept to production, was an early tester of Precise PLA.

Steve Michon, President and CEO, reflects on his prints with the new material:

When using other 3D printers and PLA materials, the results were not as precise as required, even after multiple iterations. Printing parts to the size and quality we need, with the required functionality and at a great price point is critical for our business."
– Steve Michon, President and CEO, Zero Tolerance LLC
Once design validation using Precise PLA is completed, we move to production with Markforged’s Onyx material for functional testing, followed by printing with continuous carbon fiber for added safety for our final, end-use part."
Zero Tolerance validates designs with complex geometry and mating features, requiring precision and accuracy.

In addition to prototyping, Zero Tolerance also uses Precise PLA in conjunction with Markforged’s high-strength composite materials to print fiberglass-reinforced assembly tools with color-coded handles printed in Precise PLA -- the colors help the operator quickly identify the correct tool for each job, thereby reducing mistakes and improving efficiency.

With this new material, we can now utilize our Markforged printer to deliver great results repeatedly throughout the entire design and manufacturing process. This is the most reliable additive platform we’ve ever used. It just works."
– Steve Michon, President and CEO, Zero Tolerance LLC

Incredible Versatility. Built for the Entire Product Lifecycle

Historically, Markforged users have created mission critical, tools and end use parts with Markforged’s high quality printers and high-strength materials. By bringing cost-effective prototyping materials and functional applications together on one simple-to-use platform, Markforged now offers users a more streamlined approach to bringing final designs to life.

“A material devoted to lower-cost concept models and prototypes was a top feature request from Markforged customers. We heard this feedback and fine tuned our software and printers to print in Precise PLA, now giving our users an added dimension of versatility. We also hope this update empowers our customers to have a little more fun in the design process with the added splash of colors. This is just one more example of how the Digital Forge constantly powers new applications and gets better as we take in more data and feedback from our install base.” Said President and CEO, Shai Terem.

Availability, Printer Compatibility, and Usage

Precise PLA will be available on our webstore starting March 15, 2022. At launch, the new material will print on Mark Two (Gen 2) and Onyx Pro (Gen 2) desktop series printers, which are equipped with our latest A3648 extruder. Later this year, we also plan to make Precise PLA available on all Industrial series printers with the second-generation A3648 extruder. Check out this support article if you’re unsure which generation your extruder is from. As a maintenance procedure specific to Precise PLA, you’ll also need to occasionally purge the print head, so be sure to pick up a purge rod the first time you buy spools of Precise PLA.

All of the blogs and the information contained within those blogs are copyright by Markforged, Inc. and may not be copied, modified, or adopted in any way without our written permission. Our blogs may contain our service marks or trademarks, as well as of those our affiliates. Your use of our blogs does not constitute any right or license for you to use our service marks or trademarks without our prior permission. Markforged Information provided in our blogs should not be considered professional advice. We are under no obligation to update or revise blogs based on new information, subsequent events, or otherwise.

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