Technology has blessed us with the best things in hand. It has eased up our way of life and has made it quite easier to beat those challenges that were somewhere blocking our ways. 3D technology has emerged as a true gem that is blessed with the best options. It doesn’t only ease up the methods of learning but also has made it quite easier to get the absolute 3D models of different things efficiently.
The usage of food-grade filaments has rapidly increased in the last few years. It has become an important part of different food-grade items. 3D prints not only look cool but they are quite useful as well. Whether it is about fabricating your kitchen utensils or funky design drinking cups, PLA is being used in different types of food-grade products.
Health is one of the most important aspects of everyone’s life. Before starting up using any product, it becomes quite necessary for us to know whether it is safe to use or not.
“Is PLA food safe?”, is one of the most common queries over the internet. The concern is completely understandable as it is related to our health. If you are also one of those who are willing to have an absolute answer to this question, just keep on reading the article till the end to get the perfect answer.
What is PLA?
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PLA is an acronym being used for Polylactic acid. It is a bioplastic printing material that is being used for constructing a wide range of materials. The best thing about this 3D printing material is that it is being derived from natural materials like corn, tapioca, and potatoes. As PLA is derived from natural resources that we eat on a regular basis, you can assume it is the safest material to use in food-grade materials.
What does food-safe mean?
Before jumping to the conclusion, we would like to talk about a very serious question, i.e. what does food-safe coating mean. It gets quite important to get aware of very few terms before leading up further.
The term Food Grade simply means that the material is either safe for human consumption or not. Food Grade materials are usually permitted to come in contact with food.
Food Safe is a term that is being used for describing whether the particular food-grade material is well meeting up the requirements of the intended use or not. It is an assurance that the particular food grade will not create a food safety hazard for the consumers.
Food Contact Surfaces are a term being used for any surface that is going to come in contact directly with food. The food-contact surfaces are usually made to be nontoxic and are being designed in such a way that they can well withstand the different environmental conditions of intended users such as exposure to sanitizing agents, cleaning processes and cleaning compounds, etc.
We would advise you to check for the labor indicating FDA and EU approval before using any PLA material with foldable. As per the FDA Food Code, a material is only considered to be food safe if it is following up the following requirements:
- Durable, corrosion-free, and nonabsorbent
- Does not include migration of deleterious substances
- Does not impart colors, tastes, or odors in food items
- Safe to be used under normal use conditions
- Ensures repeated washing
- Smooth finish and easily cleanable surface
- Resistant to crazing, scratching, scoring, pitting, chipping, distortion and decomposition
- Inspection accessible
The best thing about using the FDA or EU-approved materials is that they usually include raw polymers, additions, and masterbatch and are safe to use with food items.
Is PLA safe?
It would be unworthy to jump upon the conclusion whether PLA is safe or not without going through its different aspects. The query remained a mystery for years. Different scientists have made different tests just to check their credibility. PLA was found to be safe when it is used in contact with food.
But some of the research and testing also clears that the PLA usually gets easily contaminated by hot ends of 3D printers and that is something that can create a real issue. The 3D printing process usually includes a potent mixture of chemicals and heat which when printed and processed can cause a real health danger. Moreover, the addition of coloring in PLA also signifies the additive and makes it not food-safe.
Another major concern about PLA being food safe is the tiny holes and cracks that are usually created during 3D printing. These holes and cracks can provide a place for the harmful germs and ground for bacteria to grow and can be quite dangerous in the future. The main reason behind the selling of PLA is that it does come from normal foods which are mostly compostable. But this printing material is not exempted from the dreadful facts of 3D printing.
As per the different researches made by the JMU, it has been concluded that PLA is safe to be used for one-time usage or it can be efficiently used with things like water. If you are planning to use PLA for repetitive use in food, just be careful as it can cause serious health concerns.
Before jumping to the conclusion, whether PLA is safe or not, just go through some of its major aspects.
Toxicity and 3D Printing
The very first concern about PLA is the involvement of the toxic particles that get added during 3D printing. The majority of the 3D printers available in the marketplace do come up with hot ends that include dangerous chemicals. These harmful substances can easily contaminate your PLA during printing and can cause serious health threats to you.
Chemicals in the PLA Filaments
Different chemicals are usually used for coloring up and improving the strength of PLA materials. But the addition of these chemicals makes the common materials somewhere work for the food items. If you want to make a 3D print of something that is going to be in contact with food, we would prefer youtube to use the natural or the virgin PLA material only.
You can even check the smooth material safety data sheet i.e. MSDS for determining their chemical properties. This list makes it easier for the user to check whether the particular material is safe to use with food items or not. Moreover, you can also check for the FDA approval for the concerned materials before mixing them up with the PLA.
PLA materials usually get contaminated by the hot end of the 3D printers. Different strong mixtures of chemicals are usually used for printing and processing PLA. These chemicals are usually harmful to health. Usually, the nozzles being made up from stainless steel are an exception and decrease the chances of contamination but surely not all.
The majority of desktop 3D printers emit a lot of ultrafine particles with PLA. These ultra-fine particles remain there on the surface of your print objects, excessive inhalation of these ultrafine particles can lead you to serious health issues in the future. For avoiding such things to happen, we would advise you to do the 3D printing technologies with PLA material in a well-ventilated room only. Moreover, also avoid eating near your 3D printer so that you can keep your food protected from these ultrafine particles.
The other major concern about the PLA material is the buildup of bacteria. The majority of the 3D printed objects do come up with tiny pores and cracks that provide a very perfect and fertile breeding space for the harmful germs and bacteria to grow on. PLA is not an exception here and causes health issues as well.
The major drawback of the PLA is that it is not dishwasher safe. The presence of higher temperatures can easily warp or melt the PLA-printed utensils. Moreover, one can even wipe off the germs and moisture accumulated into the pores and hence can cause serious issues.
PLA can serve to be a great option for disposable utensils. You can easily create a different range of disposable utensils with PLA and can use them without any issue but if you are willing to use the cups and plates made up from the PLA multiple times, you need to think multiple times before using it.
Biodegradability of PLA
If you are searching for the answer to the query of whether PLA is biodegradable or not, let me tell you one thing here that PLA is biodegradable. But the total tenure of the process of biodegradation and its exact functioning depends upon the environment. The major elements responsible for the degradation of the are heat, moisture, and microbes. Complete visible degradation of PLA may take several years but with a compost heap, you can easily decompose it within a year or more. Moreover, higher temperature environments with a large number of microorganisms favor the PLA decomposition most. Higher the temperature conditions more fastly will your PLA get decomposed and vice versa. You can even easily create a compost heap just by providing a temperature of 60 degrees Celsius. It is a PLA glass transition temperature that decomposes the PLA into absolute compost quite fast.
If you put the 3D object deep into the compost heap, it will take about six months under these conditions before you can see visible cracks and signs of decay.
The process of decomposition of PLA in normal conditions is usually not boosted up by sunlight. Moreover, the use of UV light can also degrade its color just like other plastic materials. The PLA materials are usually considered sustainable and can last for longer years. The overall durability of the PLA prints can easily be increased just by keeping them in a cool, and dry place.
How to make PLA food safe?
Are you planning to use PLA with food items?
Are you willing to make your PLA safe with food items?
If yes, you are going to get absolute answers to all of your queries here. PLA 3D Printing filaments are widely used in a wide range of materials that are being used in home improvement stores. Health and safety are the major concerns that almost all of us care about. If you are willing to make PLA food-safe, you just need to take care of few things and that is:
- Make sure to use a hot end with 3D printing that is absolutely 100% sterile and non-toxic. A 3D printer stainless steel nozzle can help you in creating sterile and non-toxic 3D prints.
- We would also advise you not to use any raw material or eggs in contact with your PLA material as such food items are quite prone to harmful bacterial growth.
- Consistent usage of PLA for food items increases the chances of contamination. We would advise you to use the PLA materials for a single time only.
- The addition of colors and chemicals can improve its strength and look but can cause harm to your health issues. For use with food items, it is always advisable for you to use virgin or natural PLA material only.
- Heating up of PLA filament emits methyl methacrylate, which is a hazardous chemical that holds on to the capability of putting on a negative impact on one’s overall health. Make sure that your final PLA 3D print is safe to use before using it.
PLA materials have been widely used in a wide range of food storing objects. These materials which provide you an easy to access it also somewhere increases the health risks as well. Yet, the PLA material has been derived from materials like corn, tapioca, and potatoes, but still, some things level up the worries of health enthusiasts somewhere. A PLA material can serve to be ABS food safe if it is being used naturally or virgin. Moreover, you can also increase the food safety of this material by reducing its contact while preparing. We have tried to add up here different concepts so that you can well understand the different terms related to PLA and food safety. I hope, it will ease things up for you.