How to print with LW-PLA

How to print with LW-PLA

At colorFabb material development never stops. We’re starting the 2019 with a fascinating new material, first of its kind in FFF 3D printing materials.

We’re proud to announce, colorFabb LW-PLA. This filament uses an active foaming technology which is triggered by temperature. At it’s peak the filament will expand nearly 3x it’s volume, meaning users can decrease flow by 65% to obtain lightweight parts, or use the expanding properties to speed up print time by using big layer heights or single extra thick perimeters.

colorFabb LW-PLA is available in two colors, natural and black. The foaming also gives printed parts a rough matte surface finish, which makes parts look very appealing.

How does it work?

Input variables

For the filament to expand it is necessary to put a certain amount of energy into the filament. The amount of energy a filament can absorb during printing depends on the length of the hot-zone and the time it takes for the filament to pass through the hot-zone. The longer a filament will reside inside the hot-end, the more energy it can absorb which will increase the amount of expansion.

Assuming nozzle size and layerheight are fixed, our main input variables are Temperature, speed and flow to determine the amount of expansion.

How to determine the expansion of the filament

If you want to print lightweight parts which are dimensonally accurate, it’s important to first determine the possible expansion of the material. This can be done by printing single perimeter test cubes without top and bottom layers. We use the following 4 step process to determine the maximum expansion at a certain speed, temperature and flow.

  1. Print cubes at a set speed in temperatures varying from 200°C up to 280°C
  2. Measure perimeter thickness of each cube, note temperature with highest expansion.
  3. Print cubes with decreasing steps of flow, using temperature found in step 2.
  4. Find the cube at which perimeter thickness equals nozzle size.

Example – Prusa I3 MK2S

Print speed – 25mm/s
Part cooling – 0%
Printing temperature – 200°C to 280°C in steps of 10°C.
Layer height – 0.2mm
Nozzle diameter – 0.4mm

Step 1. Print cubes at a set speed in temperatures varying from 200°C up to 280°C


Step 2. Measure perimeter thickness of each cube, note temperature with highest expansion.

Cube at 200C – no expansion of material.

Cube printed at 250C – perimeter measured at 1.05mm, which yields a 260% increase of perimeter thickness. Between 240-250C the expansion of the filament was highest.

Step 3. Print cubes with decreasing steps of flow, using temperature found in step 2 (in our case 250C).

Step 4. The cube with the perimeter that equals the nozzle diameter is the lowest usable flow. Expect flows around 35-50%.

In our case we found the cube with 30% flow to be equal to the nozzle size.

So when printing on our Prusa MK2s at 25 mm/s we can print accurate model using 250C and using 30% flow rate. Increasing the speed will be possible however we need to make sure the filament can absorb enough energy, so to account for the short residence time of the filament in the hotend, the temperature should be increased in order to keep the expansion of material the same.


Lightweight printing

FlowDown to 35%
Print speedUp to 40mm/s

Lightweight printing can be done by using the settings determined in the paragraph above. Keep in mind that if the flow is decreased to low values the hot-end might clog due to the filament expanding before exiting the nozzle.


Larger layer heights

On the left we printed the same gcode using regular PLA, on the right our colorFabb LW-PLA showing the expanding properties enabling 0.6mm layerheight from a 0.4mm nozzle.

TemperatureUp to 260+°C
Print speed30-50mm/s
Max layerheight with 0.4mm nozzle0.6mm

Due to the expanding behavior of the material it is possible to 3D print with larger layer heights the nozzle itself, this means short build times for quick draft models.

Showing 13 comments
  • Yigal Ringart

    Good day!
    Can you please advise how to choose the best material for 3d prints for investment casting?
    can you please deliver your preferred material for this application.
    Thank you
    Yigal Ringart
    Exact-tec Israel
    Former CR casting

  • Paul

    How about some preferred settings for the Ultimaker 2/2+/3 etc?

    • Team colorFabb

      Hi Paul, Depends on what your goal is with the material. In general if you want to go for maximum expansion then you’ll be at the higher range of temperatures, 240-245C. THen you can expect printing with a flow multiplier of around 40%-50% for the Ultimaker systems. Don’t print to fast, it’s best to keep all speeds at 40 mm/s (at 0.2mm layerheight), or slower if you need to transfer more thermal energy to increase expansion / foaming.

      Heated bed can be set to 40-60C.

  • ali


    I don’t know where to ask my question. Would you please help me?
    We bought colorfabb xt-cf20. With PLA we did not have any problem printing but for carbon fiber we have. which nozzle diameter should be used for 0.2 mm height and 0.4 mm width? We changed temp to 260. I use creality cr-10.


  • David Jeuniaux

    Does the filament bridge well at full expansion ?

  • William Pelletier

    I have just purchased two rolls of this filament, and I am looking forward to trying it out. I have a few questions about printing with this filament. Should the part cooling fan be on or off when printing with LW-PLA? Also, do you recommend using an enclosure for printing with LW-PLA? And do you have a recommended print bed temperature for this filament? (I am printing on a heated glass bed lined with a thin sheet of PEI.)

    • Sven Hacken - colorFabb team

      The part cooling fan should be turned of if the geometry allows it.
      Due too the expanding taking up energy, the fan is not necessary most of the time.

      An enclosure is not necessary.

      Heated bed temperature of regular PLA: 50-60C should be fine.

  • Julien Pevrol


    I am an industrial designer in a french company, and i’m really seduced by this product (LW-PLA).
    I would like to know if you could send me the detailed mechanical properties datasheet of this material (especially young modulus; elastic, plastic and breaking limits) ?

    Best regards.

    Julien PEVROL

    • Team colorFabb

      We’ll upload an updated technical data sheet soon.

  • Renato

    According to the pictures, the surface finish of this filament looks a lot better than regular PLA. It looks like you can hardly identify the layers, can you confirm this?

    • Sven Hacken - colorFabb team

      The layers are indeed less visible and it gives a kind of SLS look to the printed parts.

  • Josef Kamir

    please give me your LE-PLA safety data sheets
    josef kamir tel Aviv University
    thank you

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