PLA Proven as a Dissolveable Support Material

Posted by on Tuesday, October 19, 2010 in Uncategorized

This news is HUGE for the DIY 3D printer community! We’ve been wanting to use PLA as a support material forever but we didn’t know how to dissolve it after. Domonoky and BonsaiBrain of iFeelbeta have cracked the nut and with their solution, you can dissolve PLA! Keep in mind that these are dangerous chemicals, it is serious enough that this chemical soup can be used as drain cleaner once diluted! If you are going to explore dissolving PLA, you may want to get some MakerBot PLA in the MakerBot store!

Be warned that the following chemicals are all dangerous, so handle them with care and with the proper safety precautions!

* Propan-2-ol

* Potassium hydroxide

* Aluminium hydroxide

We used technical propan-2-ol (98%) but you can also use pure propan-2-ol, 8.3% Potassium hydroxide (w/w) and a small catalytical amout (<1%) of Aluminium hydroxide.

A short manual how to prepare the “BetaSolution”:

For preparing the solution we gently warmed up the technical propan-2-ol in a waterbath to a temperature of about 40-50 °C. Be sure, the flask containing the propanol is not completely closed because of the rising vapour pressure. We used a flask made of glass with a perforated cap to prevent condensation of water and evaporation of propan-2-ol. After this, we took the flask out of the waterbath, dryed it from the outside, removed the cap and put the Potassiumhydroxide into it in small quantities. After each portion we stirred. The last little portion consists of about 0.5 g aluminum hydroxide which should also dissolve.

The solvatation of potassium hydroxide and aluminum hydroxide in propan-2-ol needs time. You generate a saturated solution, so don’t wonder, if it gets cloudy after cooling or takes much time to dissolve completely.

Store the resulting solution safely, out of reach of children in a glass container at a dry and cool place. If you use a plastic flask it might deform or the solution will react in another way with the flask.

For use, pour a small amount into a glass, so that your object is completely submerged in the solution, and wait for the PLA to be dissolved. Please only do this in a well ventilated area or outside, because the solution will give of flammable fumes. Dont smoke while doing this !

If you want to speed up the dissolving process, you can warm the solution with a water bath (NO open fire), and stir it with a ultrasonic cleanser or manually with a spoon. This will greatly improve the speed of the dissolving.

Please wear gloves and glasses when handling the warmed solution. It is as aggressive as drain-cleanser!

After dissolving the PLA you should wash your 3D-model with much water. We recommend to put it into another flask containing pure water and let it stand there for another hour. After this, you can dry it on air or with a hair blower.

The solution shouldn’t be disposed into drain without dilution! Let it cool to room temperature, if warmed, and gently put small quantities into a 5 times bigger amount of water. Now you can easily use it as drain-cleanser!

For added information, you can download a safety datasheet we preprared from here

Also we are now opening an onlineshop,, where we plan to sell this solution and other reprap related parts after we get the neccessary permits from the government. So if you are in europe, stay tuned to get the BetaSolution directly from the inventors.

When releasing in december, we also provide a more detailed german and english manual how to use BetaSolution.

To the DIY community:

Have fun with the developement of a smart software to create suitable support structures! Have even more fun with printing and dissolving the generated two-component-objects to obtain a clean ABS structure with overhangs and bridges as much as you want!

Again, big ups and mad props to iFeel beta. They put hard work into discovering and developing it! When they launch their shop, buy the solution from them!

Tagged with , 8 comments

8 Comments so far

  • Twotimes
    October 19, 2010 at 11:19 am

    Now all we need is support material supported slicing software.

  • MNJeff
    October 19, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I think support material is a really valuable capability. What would be the difficulty of adding a second extruder to a Thing-o-matic? Sounds like the electronics support is built in, but not sure what the mechanical modifications would need to be.

  • Eric
    October 20, 2010 at 11:16 am

    They mention some of the challenges in making dual material models, but is it really necessary?

    It should be possible to use software to add support material between model and print, calculating where it will be needed (as some of the commercial printers do automatically), right?

  • Michael Gervasi
    October 20, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    This is VERY cool. As the article said please be VERY careful with these liquids. I use KOH in the drinking water treatment process and being a strong base it WILL immediately burn your skin and turn cloth into sludge. Proper PPE strongly recommended.

  • The Educator
    October 20, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Very strong stuff!

    I would recommend dichloromethane, isobutylmethyl ether or t-butylmethyl ether

    Still a bit dangerous but a bit safer and cheaper than KOH, AlOH.

  • mattw
    October 21, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    This is awesome, but I think I would rather use ABS as my support material and use acetone to get rid of it. It’s pretty easy to get acetone at the store, and you don’t have to worry about it dissolving your body parts.

  • PLA as a dissolvable support material - machine quotidienne
    October 21, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    […] [Via the MakerBot blog] […]


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