I bought a roll of LW-PLA (lightweight PLA) from Colorfabb a few months ago and it has sat in my drawer waiting to be used, in part waiting for the right project but there was definitely an element of fear on my part. I had heard with some regularity that this material was a nightmare to use, and it would take forever to dial in the right settings for my printer. At £50 for a 750g roll (inc shipping), no-one wants to spend vast amounts of time and filament trying to find the right settings!
I finally took the plunge and set out to find the right settings for my Ender 5 Pro. On Colorfabbs website it sets out the procedure to use to find the optimum temperature and flow rates by printing a series of open cubes, first with varying temperature. Once you have found the temperature that has maximum expansion, you print another series of cubes at this temperature, varying the flow until you get dimensional accuracy (in other words a wall that should be 0.4mm is 0.4mm).
I'm going to level with you. I didn't do this.
I did a bit of reading on the internet and found some settings that others had used. I couldn't find any Ender 5 Pro settings but could find some for Ender 3's and since they share the same hot end thought I would give it a go.
I started with a Low Quality 0.24mm layer height Cura profile. I then went on the change few settings based upon what I had read (full list of settings at the bottom).
I printed a single cube with these settings. The cube came out ok, very lightweight, no under extrusion and dimensional accurate.
At this stage I decided that I would start printing parts for models but would monitor the prints and adjust setting such as speed, flow and temperature on the fly if needed. These are the changes to the Low Quality Profile that I ended up with:
LW-PLA Settings Ender 5 Pro - 0.24mm Layer Height
Temperature - 240 Celsius
Wall thickness - 0.4mm
Wall Count - 1
Infill Density - Part dependent but usually between 1% and 3%
Flow - 50%
Infill Speed - 45mm/s - this was originally set at 80mm/s whilst all other speeds were 45mm/s. 80mm/s resulted in underextrusion of the infill.
Skirt/Brim Speed - 10mm/s
Retraction - ON (I started with this OFF but need the extra prime amount)
Retraction distance - 0mm
Retraction Extra Prime Amount - 0.9mm
Fan speed - 20%
Here are my initial thoughts on this material.
It is NOT hard to print with. In fact I found it to be more consistent than some budget PLA's I have used in the past
It doesn't string as much as I had expected, and the stringing you do get is not he same as with regular PLA, it is very easy to remove. This being said I don't usually print more than one part at a time on the print bed. The main reason I do this is for reliability but I would say it is a must for LW-PLA otherwise you will get lots of stringing between parts.
Yes, it is expensive, however as you are printing with a 50% flow rate it is not as expensive as first thought. 750g equates to approximately 1.5kg of normal PLA. This is probably the same as a decent standard PLA.
It is really lightweight and depending on your structures it is also reasonably strong, though not as strong and standard PLA.
I found that the Colorfabb website often shows no 750g rolls in stock, after speaking with a customer service rep they told me that this is just the number 'on the shelf' and after I ordered a roll, they manufactured it at once and it was posted out that evening.