Engage reheat!

Yesterday, I wrote about the bad consequences of letting printed PLA get too warm – in summary, it softens and bends.  In the case of my 3D printer, it resulted in the print head getting out of alignment.  Thinking it over, it occurred to me that I might be able to fix the problem by reheating the plastic a bit and straightening it out.  To my surprise, it worked.  I boiled some water, put it in a bowl and immersed the distorted component.  After a few seconds I pulled it out and flattened the distorted area.  Easy.  It worked for both of the components I blogged about yesterday.

A little more experimenting shows that the water temperature can be a lot less than boiling (cool enough to dip hands in, which is convenient) and still soften PLA quite effectively, giving it a few seconds of pliability before it cools to stiffness again.  Even more interesting is the shape memory effect that I really wasn’t expecting.  Before I played with the critical parts, I took a simple printed bar of PLA, and dunked it in hot water.  While it was flexible, I bent it into a circle, and let it cool.  Then I dropped it back in the hot water.  It uncurled itself and resumed its original shape.  I’ve since done this with more complex parts, even screwing one into a ball.  I’ve put a video of this on YouTube.

It’s an entertaining but probably completely useless phenomenon.

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