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Material Property Testing of 3D-Printed


Specimen in PLA on an Entry-Level 3D Printer

Conference Paper · December 2014


DOI: 10.1115/IMECE2014-39379

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South Dakota State University
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Proceedings of the ASME 2014 International Mechanical Engineering Congress & Exposition
IMECE2014
November 14-20, 2014, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

IMECE2014-39379

MATERIAL PROPERTY TESTING OF 3D-PRINTED SPECIMEN


IN PLA ON AN ENTRY-LEVEL 3D PRINTER
Todd Letcher Megan Waytashek
South Dakota State University South Dakota State University
Mechanical Engineering Department Mechanical Engineering Department
Brookings, SD, USA Brookings, SD, USA

ABSTRACT stronger than ABS, but more brittle. PLA has a lower coefficient
An entry level consumer priced 3d-printer, the MakerBot of thermal expansion, which reduces the effects of warping, not
Replicator 2x, was used to print specimen to conduct tensile, adhering to the printed surface, and large parts cracking as they
flexural and fatigue testing. Average priced, generic brand PLA are printed. PLA also does not have the same health risks as ABS
material was used (similar to the filament a home user may when printing in improperly ventilated spaces [2]. The most
purchase). Specimen were printed at raster orientation angles of glaring disadvantage of PLA is the lower deflection temperature
0°, 45° and 90° to test orientation effects on part strength. PLA under load (50 to 140°C), which will cause printed parts to
filament was also tensile tested. deform when exposed to warm environments. One kilogram
Tensile testing of the 3d-printed specimens showed that the spools of either material type are about $50 (in early 2014) [1].
45° raster orientation angle made the strongest specimen at an With all of this in mind, it is easy to understand why many 3d-
ultimate tensile strength of 64 MPa. The 0° and 90° raster printer manufacturers are producing and supporting 3d-printers
orientation were not much less at 58 MPa and 54 MPa. A 3-point that print exclusively using PLA.
bending fixture was used to conduct flexural testing on printed Many people are now, and many more people will soon be
specimen. For this type of testing, the 0° raster orientation printing in PLA in their own homes with personal 3d printers.
produced the strongest parts with an ultimate bending stress of MakerBot alone has sold more than 15,000 3d-printers in the last
102 MPa. Both the 45° and 90° raster orientations had similar 5 years [3]. Material properties and characteristics of ABS have
results at 90 MPa and 86 MPa. For the fatigue testing, there was been well studied, including many studies that test print
no clear best option, but there was a clearly worst option, the 90° orientations [4-9]. Most of these studies were performed on the
raster orientation. This orientation clearly had lower fatigue “professional” model machines. Consumer machines print
lives than either of the other two raster orientations. The other quality has been largely untested for ABS, and literature
two raster orientations, 0° and 45°, were very similar. PLA describing material property characteristics of 3d-printed PLA
filament testing using bollard style grips, showed that the PLA could not be found. This study aims to begin to understand the
filament exhibited mechanical properties similar to that of behavior of 3d-printed PLA from a consumer level 3d-printer.
printed specimen – when tested at high enough strain rates that Specimen were printed to study tensile strength, flexural
creep damage didn’t play a significant role. This may lead to strength, and fatigue, along with the filament also being tensile
implications for recycling failed 3d-print jobs and turning it back tested. By default, if the MakerWare software, used by the
into reusable filament. MakerBot line of 3d-printers, is told to print a specimen/object
at 100% infill, the slicing software will print in alternating raster
orientations, layer by layer. A custom printing profile was
written to print the specimen entirely in a single raster orientation
INTRODUCTION for each specimen to examine printing orientation as it relates to
3d-printers have become affordable for the dedicated home material anisotropy.
user. In fact, there are many high quality 3d-printers for under
$3000 – complete with dual extruders and a heated build surface
[1]. Many of these consumer level 3d-printers are being sold as
printers that print using the material Polylactic Acid (PLA) as
opposed to the more traditional, but more difficult to print with,
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) material. PLA is

1 Copyright © 2014 by ASME


EXPERIMENTAL PROCEDURES 3d-Printed Specimen Tensile Testing

Several types of mechanical property testing were Specimen were tested according to ASTM D638 Standard
conducted on PLA filament and specimens that were 3d-printed Test Methods for Tensile Properties of Plastics [10]. The MTS
using PLA. All specimen were printed on a consumer level 3d- wedge grips were displaced at a rate of 5 mm/min with data
printer, the MakerBot Replicator 2x. Custom printing profiles (force, grip displacement and strain) collected at 100 Hz. An
were used to control the slicing/printing software which allowed MTS Model 634.31F-24 extensometer (20 mm gauge length)
printing in a single specified raster orientations for the entire was used to measure strain. Figure 2 shows the testing setup for
specimen. Each specimen was printed individually at the center tensile testing of the 3d-printed specimen. Figure 3 shows the
of the printing bed in order to produce all specimen as similarly geometry of the specimen used for tensile testing. Five specimen
as possible. For all specimen, two “shells” were used on the were tested at each of the three raster orientations tested in this
perimeter of the specimen and the inside of the specimen was study.
printed with 100% infill at specified raster orientations. The
PLA material was extruded at 230°C at a speed of 100mm/sec
with the heated bed surface at 65°C. All specimen were printed
with the same generic brand of PLA filament from two 1-kg
spools purchased together. Figure 1 shows the raster orientations
tested and their definitions.

Figure 1. Raster orientation directions, 0° (top), 90° middle, and


45° (bottom)
Figure 2. Tensile testing procedure
Each specimen was individually measured (thickness and
width) at several locations throughout the test section.
According to the ASTMs, the smallest cross sectional area (or
cross sectional area at the center of the beam for flexural testing)
was used to determine appropriate stress values. MTS universal
loading machines were used to conduct the tensile and fatigue
testing. Tensile testing of the 3d-printed specimen and all fatigue
testing was conducted on an MTS 858 load frame with an MTS
25kN load cell. Tensile testing of the PLA filament and flexural
testing was conducted on an MTS Insight load frame with a 5kN
load cell. On both machines, built in LVDTs were used to Figure 3. Tensile/Fatigue Specimen Dimensions [mm]
measure displacement, while an MTS extensometer (Model 3d-Printed Specimen Flexural Testing
634.31F-24) with a gauge length of 20mm was used to measure
strain for the tensile testing of the 3d-printed specimen. All tests
were conducted at room temperature (approximately 20°C).

2 Copyright © 2014 by ASME


Specimen were tested according to ASTM D790 - Standard 3d-printed Specimen Uniaxial Fatigue Testing
test method for flexural properties of unreinforced and
reinforced plastics and electrical insulating materials [11]. An Fatigue testing was conducted on an MTS 858 load frame
MTS 3-point flexure test fixture was used. A support span of 5.1 with a 25kN load cell in accordance to ASTM D7791 - Standard
cm was used. The grips were displaced at a rate of 10 mm/min test method for uniaxial fatigue properties of plastics. Specimen
to cause the flexure. Figure 4 shows the specimen in the test were tested by constant stress using PVC compensation to ensure
fixture. Figure 5 shows the dimensions of the test specimen. that the specimen were never overloaded. According to the
Specimen were made longer than necessary to ensure enough ASTM, testing can be conducted at rates up to 20 Hz. Therefore,
length would be available to span the supports as the specimen for this experiment, specimen were fatigued using a sinusoidal
deflected. loading waveform at 2 Hz up to 1,000 cycles, then 5 Hz up to
10,000 cycles and then 20 Hz until failure. Failure was
considered to be a completely fractured specimen. The fatigue
endurance limit for this experiment was set to 1 million cycles.
If the specimen did not break by 1 million cycles, the test was
stopped. Specimen geometry is shown in Figure 3 (same as the
tensile testing specimen). All testing was conducted at a stress
ratio of 𝑅 = −1.

PLA Filament Tensile Testing

The PLA filament alone (not printed into a specimen) was


also tested. Specimen of 200mm in length were clamped using
the Bollard style grips shown in Figure 6 in the MTS Insight load
frame. Several displacement rates (500 mm/min, 200 mm/min,
50 mm/min, 5 mm/min) were used to test the filament.

Figure 4. Bending testing procedure

Figure 5. Bending Testing Specimen Dimensions

Figure 6. PLA filament testing using Bollard style grips (left),


lose up of clamping method (right)

3 Copyright © 2014 by ASME


RESULTS 70
60
3d-Printed Specimen Tensile Testing
50

Stress (MPa)
Five specimen were tested at each raster orientation angle. 40
The individual results for each test are shown in Table 1. Table
2 shows a summary of all the tensile tests. 30
0 degrees
20 45 degrees
Table 1. Tensile testing of 3d-printed specimen
10 90 degrees
Modulus 0
Raster Actual Actual Ultimate Elongation
of
Orientation Width Thickness Stress at Break
Elasticity
0 0.01 0.02 0.03 0.04
(degrees) (mm) (mm) (MPa) (%)
(GPa)
Strain (mm/mm)
0 13.03 5.59 59.65 2.198% 3.256
Figure 7. Representative tensile testing data at each raster
0 12.86 5.94 58.61 2.297% 2.815
orientation
0 12.87 5.87 54.16 1.697% 3.522
0 13.14 5.88 65.49 2.271% 3.461
0 13.19 6.08 54.36 1.656% 3.599
3d-Printed Specimen Bending Testing

45 13.38 6.08 64.94 2.552% 3.677 Five flexural specimen were printed and tested at each raster
45 13.11 6.12 63.28 2.368% 3.577 orientation. For this testing, failure was considered a fully
45 13.21 6.10 62.45 2.413% 3.598 broken specimen. However, the specimen often did not fully
break. Of the specimen that did not fully break, some specimen
45 13.12 6.18 65.37 2.577% 3.585 cracked, but the outer shell held together, while the rest of the
45 13.55 6.03 64.10 2.601% 3.585 specimen were flexible enough to not break. Eventually the test
90 13.15 5.93 56.26 5.086% 3.507 was stopped because the specimen were touching the testing
fixture. Table 3 shows the results from this testing. Table 4
90 13.22 6.03 56.08 3.208% 3.536 compiles the average results for each printing orientation.
90 13.41 5.82 53.34 4.530% 3.463
90 13.05 6.00 49.10 4.553% 3.310
Table 3. Flexural Testing
90 13.36 5.92 55.26 3.334% 3.628
Raster Actual Actual Ultimate Ultimate Flexural
Orientation Width Thickness Stress Strain Modulus
Table 2. Summary of tensile testing results (degrees) (mm) (mm) (MPa) (%) (GPa)
0 12.63 3.34 99.34 6.64% 3.13
Raster Average Average Average 13.08 3.19
0 103.77 9.19% 3.17
Orientation Ultimate Elongation Modulus of
0 13.08 3.09 100.90 13.29% 3.18
(degrees) Stress at Break Elasticity
(MPa) (%) (GPa) 0 12.75 3.15 107.14 12.16% 3.48
0 58.45 2.02% 3.33 0 12.76 3.23 99.87 11.82% 2.98
45 64.03 2.50% 3.60 45 12.83 3.37 92.77 7.17% 2.98
90 54.01 4.14% 3.49 45 12.69 3.36 92.29 7.48% 3.21
45 12.76 3.44 88.23 8.15% 2.93
45 13.10 3.34 89.43 8.81% 3.02
In the case of PLA, the 45° raster orientation produced the
strongest specimen. Figure 7 shows representative stress/strain 45 12.75 3.39 90.53 7.59% 2.78
curves from each of the raster orientations. 90 12.74 3.38 85.77 4.73% 3.01
90 12.72 3.40 85.48 4.73% 2.88
90 12.77 3.33 87.32 4.75% 3.05
90 12.76 3.31 86.52 4.01% 3.00
90 12.67 3.37 85.59 4.30% 3.05

4 Copyright © 2014 by ASME


Table 4. Summary of flexural testing orientation specimen clearly have the lowest fatigue
capabilities. After adjusting the 0° specimens to account for the
Flexural “strand” breaking off during testing and not supporting any
Raster Ultimate Ultimate
Modulus of load, it can be seen in the figure that on average the 0°
Orientation Stress Strain
Elasticity specimens have better fatigue loading resistance to failure than
(degrees) (MPa) (%)
(GPa) the 45° specimens above 35 MPa. Below 35 MPa, the 45°
0 102.203 0.106 3.187 specimens have the best fatigue life capabilities. These trends
should be more closely investigated using more specimen and
45 90.649 0.078 2.985
should likely be tested at more stress levels to confirm or deny
90 86.136 0.045 3.000 these findings.

The endurance limit was considered to be 1 million cycles


For PLA printed specimen, the 0° raster orientation printed for this study. The endurance limits for the three raster
specimen had the highest ultimate stress with 102.203 MPa orientations tested in this study were, 5 MPa (0° specimens), 10
before breaking. MPa (45° specimens), and 0.5 MPa (the 90° specimens).

3d-Printed Specimen Fatigue Testing Filament Tensile Testing

Fatigue specimen were printed and then fatigued until the Tensile testing on the filament alone without having been
specimen had fully broken (or reached the fatigue limit). extruded through the printing process was also tested. Several
Eventually, for most 0° raster orientation specimen, an outer displacement rates were used to test the filament. Table 6 shows
“strand” of the specimen, in the gauge length zone, separated all of the test results, while Table 7 shows a summary of the
from the main body of the specimen. It was observed that this average results for each strain rate.
piece of the specimen provided no support as it was fatigued and
the strand would eventually break off of the specimen. After
each of these specimen failed, the strand was measured and Table 6. Filament Tensile Testing
subtracted from the area used to calculate he necessary load to Displacement Ultimate Ultimate Modulus of
be applied to cause a specified alternating stress. The load Rate Stress Strain Elasticity
applied to the specimen divided by the adjusted cross sectional (mm/min) (MPa) (%) (GPa)
area was used to calculate the “adjusted” stress value. These 500 60.86 12.3% 1.78
results are shown in Figure 8.
500 59.41 14.3% 1.72
Logarithmic curve fits (Eq 1) were calculated for each of 500 63.44 9.3% 1.77
the raster orientation angles. Table 5 shows the curve fit 500 56.89 4.6% 1.89
coefficients for each of the types of testing conducted.
500 54.17 5.5% 1.73
200 61.10 16.9% 1.93
𝜎 = 𝐴 ∗ 𝑙𝑜𝑔(𝑁) + 𝐵 Eq 1 200 59.22 14.6% 1.89
200 58.95 12.4% 1.81
200 60.26 11.0% 1.89
Table 5. Curve fit coefficients for fatigue modeling
200 58.05 11.8% 1.83
Raster 50 56.25 16.2% 1.54
Orientation A B R2
50 53.40 20.4% 1.50
(degrees)
0 -4.5949 66.4654 0.9893 50 56.08 14.5% 1.66
45 -4.3142 67.0712 0.9905 50 55.67 8.2% 2.02
90 -5.0432 67.5063 0.9912 50 52.16 28.5% 1.46
0 (adjusted) -4.9697 71.8660 0.9875 5 48.25 24.6% 1.34
5 47.01 14.4% 1.27
5 48.62 12.1% 1.16
As with all fatigue testing, the results are somewhat 5 48.67 21.4% 1.35
random, although the coefficient of determination values are
quite high. It can be seen in Figure 8 that the 90° raster 5 48.62 7.6% 1.43

5 Copyright © 2014 by ASME


60
0 degrees
50 45 degrees
90 degrees

40 0 degree (adjusted)
Stress (MPa)

30

20

10

0
10 100 1,000 10,000 100,000 1,000,000 10,000,000
Number of Cycles

Figure 8. SN plot of fatigue data

Table 7. Summary of filament tensile testing


70
Displacement Average Ultimate Modulus of
Rate Ultimate Stress Strain Elasticity 60
(mm/min) (MPa) (%) (GPa)
50
500 58.951 9.2% 1.778
Stress (MPa)

200 59.518 13.3% 1.868 40


50 54.713 17.5% 1.636
5 48.233 16.0% 1.309 30
500 mm/min
20 200 mm/min
For the two fastest strain rates (500 mm/min and 200
mm/min) the ultimate stress was similar along with the modulus 10 50 mm/min
of elasticity. The two slower strain rates (50 mm/min and 5 5 mm/min
mm/min) had lower ultimate strengths, but did have longer 0
maximum elongations before failure – likely affected by creep 0 0.05 0.1 0.15 0.2
from the longer testing times. Strain (mm/mm)

The ultimate stress for the faster strain rates (not affected by
Figure 9. Representative filament stress/strain curves
creep) were similar to the results of the printed specimen, even
though the PLA plastic in the specimen has been heated and
extruded one time more than the filament alone. This finding
Microscope Evaluations
may be useful when considering whether waste PLA material
from 3d-printing can be recycled into new filament for future
printing. A Keyence VHX-600 microscope was used to perform
visual evaluation of several small features of the test specimen.
Through this evaluation, several problems with the print quality

6 Copyright © 2014 by ASME


were noted. The most notable being in the 0° raster orientation.
As shown in Figures 10 and 11, the 3d-printer left gaps near the
radius section of the specimen and along one side of the entire
test section of specimen.

Figure 10. Radius gap problem in 0° raster orientation (50x)

Figure 12. 0° raster orientation specimen exhibiting loose strand


Figure 11. Gap between the outer “shell” of the specimen and
behavior
the main body of the specimen (50x)

In contrast to the problems shown for the 0° raster


The gap between the printed shell and the main body of the
orientation angle, the 45° and the 90° orientations did not show
specimen became extremely apparent during the high stress (low
any gap problems near the radius of the specimen or anywhere.
cycle) fatigue testing. Several measurements of this gap across
See Figures 13 and 14 for these views, due to the geometry of
several specimen were made using the microscope. The average
slicing and layering the specimen, all voids could be filled much
gap thickness was 181.47μm. During these high stress fatigue
closer than the 0° specimens.
tests, it was noted that the outer shell of the specimen had
completely separated from the main body of the specimen and
was not contributing to the stiffness of the specimen leaving a
CONCLUSIONS
“loose strand” vibrating with as the load is cycled. Figures 12
shows a representative view of the “loose strand” at 0° raster
PLA filament and PLA printed specimen mechanical
orientation specimen while being fatigue tested. This loose
properties were tested. For tensile testing, it was determined that
strand looked to be buckling almost immediately after cyclic
the the 45° raster orientation specimens were the strongest. In
fatigue began and broke free very soon after the buckling began.
fatigue testing, the 90° specimens were clearly the least resistant
Because the specimen still held the full fatigue load without the
to fatigue loadings. The fatigue lives for the 45° specimens and
peak/valley machine displacement changing, it was determined
0° specimens were very similar and should be investigated
that the loose strand never contributed to supporting load on the
further. However, the 45° specimens did have the highest fatigue
specimen and therefore the loose strand failure should not
endurance limit. The filament testing (at higher strain rates
constitute a specimen failure.
where creep wasn’t a factor) showed similar results to the printed

7 Copyright © 2014 by ASME


specimen results. This may help to determine whether failed [2] Stephens, B., Azimi,P., El Orch, Z., Ramos, T. Ultrafine
print jobs can be recycled into new filament to be printed again. particle emissions from desktop 3D printers, Atmospheric
Microscope evaluations helped to determine gap sizes left in the Environment, Volume 79, November 2013, Pages 334-339
specimens from the printing process.
[3] Makerbot FAQ. http://www.makerbot.com/faq/.

[4] Rodriguez JF, Thomas JP, Renard JE. Design of fused-


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Figure 13. 45° raster orientation 50x view of radius section (50x)
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of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) fused deposition
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[10] ASTM Standard D638, 2010, "Standard test methods for


tensile properties of plastics," ASTM International, West
Conshohocken, PA, 2010

[11] ASTM Standard D790, 2010, "Standard test method for


flexural properties of unreinforced and reinforced plastics and
electrical insulating materials," ASTM International, West
Conshohocken, PA, 2010
Figure 14. 90° raster orientation, 50x view of radius section
[12] ASTM Standard D7791, 2012, "Standard test method for
uniaxial fatigue properties of plastics.” ASTM International,
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS West Conshohocken, PA, 2012

The author would like to thank the Materials Evaluation and


Testing Lab (METLAB) and the Mechanical Engineering
Department at South Dakota State University for the use of
testing equipment.

REFERENCES

[1] 3ders.org. Price compare 3d printing materials.


http://www.3ders.org/pricecompare/. (visited 4/12/2014)

8 Copyright © 2014 by ASME