How Long Do PLA 3D Printed Parts Last? – 3D Printerly (2023)

I was sitting here with my 3D printer thinking, just how long do 3D printed parts last? You print so many 3D models over time so I’m sure many of you have wondered the same question. I’ve put together some important details to answer this question so keep reading to find out.

How Long Do 3D Printed Parts Last? 3D printed parts effectively last centuries and won’t break down under normal conditions, but they will become weaker over time. Household products are made of the same plastic and those will last a very long time. 3D printed parts only degrade under specific harsh conditions, parts designed with strength last longer.

Different materials have different properties that make them last longer than others so it’s important to know which is which. In the rest of this article you’ll learn which materials are more resilient and last longer over time, as well as moisture and sun exposure effects on filament.

How Long Do PLA 3D Printed Parts Last?

Some 3D printed materials definitely have a longer shelf-life than others so I will describe how long 3D printer parts generally last for the most common filaments out there.

In normal indoor settings, PLA isn’t going to break down on the inside unless it’s exposed to moisture, force, heat, or sunlight so it is a very resilient plastic.

Plastics go through a high temperature commercial process to truly be disposed of, and these can take anywhere from 45-90 days. In a backyard compost bin, PLA could last 15 years before it actually degrades.

3D printed parts are going to have a hard time trying to last in certain settings where functionality is it’s main goal.

I will assume you want to know how long 3D printed parts last when under functional use such as a handle, holder, or phone case. Let’s get into some different materials and their functional time spans.

Materials should not be exposed to prolonged temperatures over short periods of time:

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  • 70°C (158°F) for basic Co-Polymers
  • 85°C (185°F) for ABS
  • 100°C (212°F) for enhanced Co-Polymers
  • 105°C (221°F) for Polypropylene (PP)
  • 110°C (230°F) for Polycarbonate (PC)


Due to being made from a biodegradable material it means over a long period of time, PLA is going to slowly degrade. This process, however, can take a very long time, to a point where it won’t have much impact on its functionality.

There are factors that make PLA decay faster such as heat, UV rays, humidity etc. In normal settings of just being in a cupboard or an aesthetic piece in your bedroom, PLA will take at least 15 years to break down. There are several conditions that have to be in place for PLA to properly degrade.

After several years of room pressure, temperature and other factors, PLA will become a more brittle, weak and easy to break, but it largely depends on how strong the part was printed. Later in this article I’ll talk about how to make 3D parts last longer.

Realistically, PLA is going to last decades but after breaking down, it might not ‘last’ in a functional environment such as a pipe, handle, a TV stand and so on.

This 3D printed clamp below made from white PLA is an example of something you might want to print with another material. With light use, it should be fine over time, but a stronger, more durable material should last longer and be more functional.

How Long Do PLA 3D Printed Parts Last? – 3D Printerly (1)

Even though this is the case, I wouldn’t advise printing PLA for something you want to hold up for a very long time such as a long-term gift of sorts or something along those lines.


ABS is a lot more durable, functionally than PLA but it is harder to print with so not as popular. ABS has great temperature resistance and more shatter resistance so it should last longer than PLA.


PLA+ was a game-changer in the fact that it kept it’s easy to print properties, while gaining substantially more durable properties than standard PLA. Many people describe it as an ‘easy to print’ ABS and because of its extra durability, it does last longer than PLA.

But how much longer does PLA+ last?

It’s hard to put a timeframe on how much longer PLA+ lasts but we can guess around 20% longer based on 3D printing strength tests and other tests done by people.

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The first thing to note is there are several filament manufacturers who have a wide range of quality so some are low quality and some high. If you want your parts to last the longest, make sure they are high quality.


Nylon also has great temperature resistance so if you wanted to 3D print an object that was going to be used in a car, it would be a great material to print with.


TPU is a more rubber-like material so it has characteristics which doesn’t make it become brittle or prone to breaking, but it can become stretched over time. Under normal conditions, TPU will last several decades without a lot of force.

I’ve written an extensive guide to 3D Printer Filament Materials where you can get a good amount of insight about filaments.

How Do I Make 3D Printed Parts Last Longer?

The video above by Maker Muse lists out some great tips on how to make your 3D print parts stronger:

  • Increase Infill Percentage
  • Use a Stronger Infill Pattern
  • Increase Layer Height
  • Increase Extrusion Width
  • Increase Print Temperature

You’ll have to balance how strong you want your 3D printed part to be and the time taken to actually print the part. A mixture of infill, shell, layer and extrusion settings can have a positive effect on how long your parts last.

Layer Height

Using Higher Quality Material

As previously mentioned, manufacturers that create higher quality filament will make a world of difference in how long your 3D printed parts last. Make sure you go for a filament brand that has a solid track record and plenty of happy customers, so you know they are one of the better filaments out there.

Put Printed Parts in the Optimal Environment

You mainly want to avoid humid environments, sunlight and heat for your 3D printed parts. Plastic is pretty durable in general so you should have too much of an issue making prints last.

Does 3D Printer Filament Expire?

3D printer filament doesn’t necessarily expire but it can be weakened when not kept in the right conditions, but these negative effects can sometimes be corrected depending on what is affecting your filament.

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The reason 3D filament manufacturers store their filament in such specific conditions, being in a vacuum-sealed bag, is because it preserves the filament and its characteristics.

If they had left the filament in a bag that allows air inside, it wouldn’t last as long because oxygen slowly breaks filament down and makes it more brittle.

Can You Leave 3D Printed Parts in the Sun?

Exposure to the sun and its ultraviolet rays is known to have negative effects on the structural integrity of 3D printed parts. Some parts have more protection against these UV rays but a lot of them will be broken down by it.

The color of your filament will also have an effect here because black filament will absorb the heat, while white filament will reflect the heat, making it more protected to the sunlight.

It’s not just the sunlight directly that affects your 3D printed parts but the temperature increase. Some filament is not very resilient to high temperatures, PLA being one of them.

You’ll be able to tell which filament is more heat-resistant by the ones that require high printing temperatures.

It’s important to be able to distinguish which 3D printed parts will become damaged with constant sunlight exposure. Some parts that you are widely using today are constantly in the sun and don’t break down. A good example is parts used in a car, a bicycle or even in your phone case.

Can 3D Printed Parts Last Outside or in Water?

There is a descriptive term out there called hygroscopic which refers to a materials’ ability to absorb water. Parts which are highly hygroscopic won’t have the best time when air is humid, let alone being submerged in water of any kind.

PLA, the most common 3D printed material is very hygroscopic so it’s not advised to use PLA in a bathroom or any other setting which has high humidity. What happens when PLA absorbs water over time is it’s structural integrity weakens and it becomes brittle.

It’s more so a problem when it comes to the 3D printing process because when filament is exposed to moisture saturation, it won’t melt evenly and may even give bubbles. Once your part is actually printed, you won’t have as many issues.

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All filaments are hygroscopic to a degree, but some more than others.

If you are using PLA in a functional fashion, where it is exposed to mechanical force, it can deteriorate and break over time.

This is why when you are working on projects, you need to take these things into account to come out successful. I’m sure there are some people who didn’t take this important information into account and have experienced the consequences of this.

So to answer the question, some 3D printed materials which aren’t very hygroscopic can last outside, with rain or even in water because they have protective measures that don’t absorb water into their chemical structure.

Many people have used PLA for plant pots which is under constant conditions of humidity and pressure but they still stand the test of time after years. If your parts are created with strong structure, you can avoid decomposition of your material.

I’ve definitely heard of PLA shower handles and toothbrush holders, so it may not be as damaging as it first seems. Tests have been done where people submerge PLA objects in a jar of water for a year and surprisingly, they didn’t show any signs of degradation.

How Long Does it Take for PLA to Biodegrade?

PLA isn’t a new material that has come about from 3D printing. It is quite a well-known material and has been used for several years before manufacturers made it into specialized filament for 3D printers to create objects.

The known information about PLA is, it does degrade but it takes many decades in optimal conditions to be able to degrade.

If a PLA printed part is left in a non-humid environment with no sunlight and no mechanical force, it will almost certainly last centuries. The way PLA biodegrades is through a specific process where secondary chemicals are made to react to PLA and break it down structurally.

So, technically speaking, PLA doesn’t biodegrade, at least naturally but only when exposed to very high temperatures and chemical breakdowns.

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How long does PLA last in a 3D printer? ›

Thus, a 1-kg spool of PLA should last you about 14 to 25 weeks, which equates to 4 to 6 months! Keep an eye on shipping costs, and make sure to order filament so that it arrives about 4 months after your last spool purchase.

How long does 3D printing filament last? ›

For most PLA, ABS or other thermoplastic 3D printer filaments, preserved period would be about 3-6 months depending on the storage conditions. Keep reading and find out how to tell if your filaments are stored properly.

How long does it take PLA to degrade? ›

In the wild, it takes at least 80 years for PLA to decompose, which means that in the sea and on land it contributes not only to conventional petroleum-based plastics but also to environmental pollution from plastics and above all microplastics.

What is the durability of PLA? ›

In addition, PLA is brittle, leading to parts with poor durability and impact resistance. Although PLA is the strongest of these three plastics, its poor chemical and heat resistance force it into almost exclusively hobbyist applications.

Will PLA break down over time? ›

Contrary to the belief often associated with materials that are considered biodegradable, PLA can take hundreds of years to degrade in an environment like a composter or a landfill. Indeed, just leaving a PLA part outside for years is unlikely to have any effect on its plastic composition.

How long does a nozzle last with PLA? ›

If you print regular PLA only and don't have much cloggs (where the plastic stays a long time hot in the nozzle), your nozzle can last for years without noticeable quality degradation. But if you change filament types often, you might experience printing issues.

Is it OK to run a 3D printer for 24 hours? ›

Hi, 3D printers can work for days. - Print peels of the build plate during print, use brim or raft for long prints for best adhesion. Make sure the print surface is super clean before print starts or use glue stick/hairspray, also a correct bed leveling is a key point for best first layer adhesion to the print bed.

Will 3D printer stop if it runs out of filament? ›

If you run out of filament, the printer will automatically pause the print, unload the remaining few centimeters of the material from the heatbreak, and move the X-carriage away from the print. You will be prompted to replace the spool and insert a new filament.

Is it OK to leave a 3D printer on overnight? ›

It's generally recommended that you avoid leaving a 3D printer on overnight. Some things can go wrong if you leave your 3D printer unattended. One of the biggest potential problems is seeing a printer on fire.

Does water weaken PLA? ›

You will not damage the model with water using that material. PLA is biodegradable, and a bit easier to work with. Neither ABS or PLA will degrade much in water. PLA is biodegradable, but it is what is known as chemically biodegradable, meaning it does not biodegrade very fast.

Does PLA become brittle? ›

All of these issues that contribute to brittle PLA filament come down to 3D printing's number one enemy: humidity. As soon as you open your filament spool, the first thing on your mind should be protecting the material from any damage.

Will PLA degrade in water? ›

This is not an issue if it's only exposed to perfectly clean water, but if you were to leave a PLA printed part submerged for an extended period in a body of water that contains microorganisms, like a pond, there is a chance that your part could start to degrade.

What are the negatives to PLA? ›

What are the Disadvantages of Polylactic Acid? PLA has a relatively low glass transition temperature (typically between 111 and 145 °F). This makes it fairly unsuitable for high temperature applications. Even things like a hot car in the summer could cause parts to soften and deform.

What are the disadvantages of printing with PLA? ›

What are the limitations of 3D printing with PLA? PLA has low heat resistance, and therefore cannot be used for high temperature applications. In high temperatures, PLA can rapidly deform, especially if under stress. PLA is typically weaker and has a lower tensile strength than its counterparts, ABS and PETG.

What are the disadvantages of using PLA? ›

PLA melts more easily because it has a lower melting point than many fossil-based plastics.
  • It doesn't compost fast enough for industrial composters.
  • The residue is not compost. it doesn't improve the quality of soil. No nutrient.
  • It changes the PH value of the soil. It makes it more acidic.
Jun 9, 2020

How many times can PLA be melted? ›

Re-use: yes, it can be re-melted endlessly as long as the PLA is not combined with other materials in a composite.

What happens to PLA in sunlight? ›

Both PLA and ABS survive fine outside for years, but ultimately, plastic is damaged by UV and that's just something you have to understand when designing outdoor products. Paint is an easy fix. PLA is more reflective than ABS, so it absorbs less sunlight. But ABS is more heat-resistant.

Does PLA degrade in sunlight? ›

PLA is considerably UV resistant – however it is important to note that, as a bioplastic, PLA has a much lower heat resistance – at around 57 °C Tg. Whilst temperatures on Earth do not (yet) reach this, the impact of increased air temperature and humidity risks degrading PLA.

How often does PLA need to be dried? ›

All filaments should be kept in a low-humidity, dry environment. The OP suggests that PLA doesn't need to be dried.

What wears out on a 3D printer? ›

The extruder gears will also eventually wear down with use which causes the extruder to lose grip. Using abrasive filaments such as glass and carbon fiber filled materials will wear the extruder gears down more quickly.

What happens when PLA gets old? ›

When a PLA filament absorbs moisture, it swells up, increasing the risk of extruder jams. Moisture also causes PLA to produce prints with bubbles and gaps on the surface, therefore ruining your prints. You'll also notice that when PLA goes bad, it gets brittle and easily snaps off.

Is it safe to run a 3D printer in a bedroom? ›

New studies have confirmed that particles emitted from 3D printers can negatively impact indoor air quality and have the potential to harm respiratory health.

Are PLA fumes toxic? ›

Particulates from FFF printers using ABS, PLA filaments are damaging to human airways, DNA, even at low levels, report finds.

How fast can a 3D printer build a house? ›

3D-printed homes are revolutionizing the construction industry by making home builds faster, cheaper and more sustainable. In less than 24 hours, 3D printers can print the foundation and walls for a small home at a fraction of the cost of typical construction.

What can I do with leftover filament 3D printer? ›

Get a Filament Recycler

A recycler system is a great way to turn your excess filament or failed prints back into usable filament. The system grinds up and melts the plastic. Then extrudes it and coils it onto a spool. Many machines only grind or only melt, meaning you may need two machines.

Can you change filament in the middle of a print? ›

Carefully remove the filament from the extruder and load the new filament. Slowly push the filament through the PTFE tube and hot end. Once you feel resistance when pushing the filament, look at the nozzle. Continue to gently push the filament until you see the new filament coming out of the nozzle.

What happens if you run out of filament halfway through a print? ›

It depends on your printer, if your printer has a filament sensor, then it will stop and wait to load new material. If not, then the printer will finish your print job, also without filament.

How far should a 3D printer be from the bed? ›

A tried-and-true technique is to have around a . 1mm gap between the nozzle and the bed to get the ever-so-perfect first layer. This is typically achieved by using a piece of regular 8x11 printer paper or a . 1mm feeler gage in between a heated nozzle and the bed.

Should I let the bed cool before removing 3D print? ›

NOTE: Always let the print bed cool down to room temperature before removing the print. Otherwise you can damage the bed! NOTE: When you print a product with a brim, be aware of the danger of cutting yourself when removing the print from the build plate. A brim can be very sharp!

Can I leave the house with a 3D printer running? ›

You can leave the 3d printer Unattended or running overnight only if your 3d printer is under any 3d printing workflow system such as CloudPrint 2.0. The only problem here is that you need to have a MakerBot 3d printer.

Can you put PLA in a fish tank? ›

PLA is aquarium-safe but it is made of cornstarch that will begin to degrade in water and your printed object will fall apart within 6 months. It can be sealed using an epoxy or lacquer that once allowed to fully cure will be safe in the aquarium and not allow the print to degrade.

Does PLA melt in hot water? ›

Tests with different temperatures show that PLA suffers significant changes even at lower temperatures like 70 °C, and higher temperatures (110-170 °C) cause warping and even complete melting. So, in the end, annealing 3D printed PLA is a compromise between better material properties and dimensional or shape accuracy.

Does PLA break down in UV? ›

Abstract. Polylactic acid (PLA) is flammable, susceptible to UV light, and slow during degradation in nature, which limits the expansion of its application fields.

Does PLA degrade in oil? ›

Aliphatic hydrocarbons like a mineral oil should be fine -- straight-chain hydrocarbon molecules don't attack PLA. Aromatic hydrocarbons like benzene or toluene will attack PLA. (Gasoline often contains aromatics like toluene.)

How do you make PLA more durable? ›

It involves using epoxy/polyepoxide to strengthen 3D prints. Epoxy coating is an insoluble surface coating made from a hardener and epoxy coating. It is solvent resistance, durable and tough, making it a suitable way to coat materials such as PLA, ABS, and SLA.

How do you revive old PLA? ›

Leaving PLA in a dry environment for a week or two should adequately re-dry it, or it can be gently heated to about 120F / 50C for a couple hours.

At what temperature does PLA plastic deform? ›

PLA begins to deform at temperatures above 60 degrees C, and it is not water or chemical resistant. There is a slight smell when it is heated, rather like microwave popcorn, but no toxic odors or vapor.

How do you make PLA prints watertight? ›

Sealing the surface with food-grade epoxy resin will not only help you make the model waterproof but it's also one of the few methods that can be used to make food-safe 3D printed dishes. Keep in mind that using epoxy resin is very messy work that comes with fumes that will likely require extra safety measures.

Is PLA really environmentally friendly? ›

PLA is biodegradable under commercial composting conditions and will breakdown within twelve weeks, making it a more environmentally choice when it comes to plastics in contrast to traditional plastics which could take centuries to decompose and end up creating microplastics.

Does PLA degrade naturally? ›

It is important to understand PLA is not a biodegradable material in just any environment, it is a compostable material only in industrial environments and shows very little mineralization(not biodegradation) in the majority of environments.

Can you eat PLA filament? ›

Ultimately, as a pure material PLA is generally considered food-safe; there are no toxic chemicals in the polymer itself. That being said, dyes or additives found in spools of PLA filament may not be food-safe.

What is the biggest problem of 3D printing? ›

Critical 3D Printing Problems and Solutions

Today, however, challenges seem to vary: the cost of pre- and post-processing, the limited selection of materials and technology limitations are the biggest 3D printing challenges of 2021.

How strong are PLA printed parts? ›


Additionally, you can print with PLA at a low temperature, without a heated bed, but it has a tensile strength of 7,250 psi. However, PLA is also biodegradable, so while it is environmentally friendly, it is unlikely to be suitable for bearing heavy loads, as it can become brittle.

What are the pros and cons of PLA? ›

+ Can be printed on a cold surface– Can deform because of heat (like a cassette in a car)
+ More environmental-friendly– Less sturdy (than ABS)
+ Shinier and smoother appearance
+ Smells sweet when being print =)
3 more rows
Jan 31, 2015

How long does PLA last for? ›

Thus, a 1-kg spool of PLA should last you about 14 to 25 weeks, which equates to 4 to 6 months! Keep an eye on shipping costs, and make sure to order filament so that it arrives about 4 months after your last spool purchase.

Does PLA degrade over time? ›

Contrary to the belief often associated with materials that are considered biodegradable, PLA can take hundreds of years to degrade in an environment like a composter or a landfill. Indeed, just leaving a PLA part outside for years is unlikely to have any effect on its plastic composition.

What is the longest lasting 3D printer filament? ›

One of the strongest 3D printing materials in terms of durability and heat resistance is PA (Polyamide). This semicrystalline plastic is used for prints that will undergo heavy-duty applications. PA has high strength, excellent impact resistance, and is fatigue-resistant, making it ideal for moving parts.

Can I leave PLA in 3D printer? ›

If you're actively printing, PLA will usually be OK if left out. You could find a 2 gallon ziploc freezer back and toss it in there with a packet of desiccant for storage.

When should you not use PLA? ›

Remember not to put PLA parts in the dishwasher or use them for hot food or drink. PLA has a low glass transition temperature of around 65℃. This means the PLA will soften in the dishwasher or in contact with hot food. If you're looking for food-safe filaments that are heat resistant, there are some other options.

Does PLA plastic degrade water? ›

Neither ABS or PLA will degrade much in water. PLA is biodegradable, but it is what is known as chemically biodegradable, meaning it does not biodegrade very fast. ABS, PLA, and Nylon all are hydroscopic, but that does not mean they will absorb a bunch of water and then start degrading.

What is the most difficult filament to print? ›

Flexible filaments, including TPU, are notoriously difficult to print as filament can stretch when the extruder tries to push it, altering the diameter of the filament. It's recommended to print TPU with a direct drive extruder as the less the filament has to travel from the extruder to the hot end, the better.

Why do 3D printers fail so much? ›

Typically this 3D printing problem is attributable to two parts of the printing process — either something is wrong with your filament supply, or there's a problem with the hot end/nozzle itself. It could be as simple a case as your filament has run out.

What is stronger than PLA filament? ›

PETG is stronger and more resilient than PLA. PLA, on the other hand, is widely used as FDM/FFF filaments because of its better melt and cooling properties. In terms of cost, PETG is more expensive than PLA.

Can PLA grow mold? ›

Can mold grow on plastic? The short answer is an astounding yes!

Does PLA degrade in UV light? ›

Abstract. Polylactic acid (PLA) is flammable, susceptible to UV light, and slow during degradation in nature, which limits the expansion of its application fields.

Will my 3D printer pause if it runs out of filament? ›

Running out of filament

If you run out of filament, the printer will automatically pause the print, unload the remaining few centimeters of the material from the heatbreak, and move the X-carriage away from the print. You will be prompted to replace the spool and insert a new filament.

Does PLA fade in sunlight? ›

The sun breaks down PLA. But, some people have had PLA working good for them. I have heard of a PLA that is stronger and more resistant to the sun's rays.


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