Do 3D Printed Things Last? [2023]

Are you wondering if the 3D printed creations you make will stand the test of time? It’s a valid concern, especially when you’ve put time and effort into designing and printing something. In this article, we’ll explore the durability and longevity of 3D printed objects, so you can have a better understanding of how long they can last. We’ll also provide some tips and advice on how to make your 3D prints last even longer. So, let’s dive in!

Table of Contents

Quick Answer

✅ Yes, 3D printed objects can last a long time, but their lifespan depends on various factors such as the material used, the design, and the post-processing techniques applied. With proper care and maintenance, 3D printed objects can withstand regular use and maintain their integrity for years.

Quick Tips and Facts

Before we delve into the details, here are a few quick tips and facts about the longevity of 3D printed objects:

  • Material Matters: The choice of material greatly influences the durability of 3D printed objects. Different materials have different properties and strengths.
  • Design Considerations: The design of the object can impact its strength and longevity. Proper structural support and reinforcement can enhance durability.
  • Post-Processing Techniques: Applying post-processing techniques such as sanding, sealing, or reinforcing can improve the durability of 3D printed objects.
  • Maintenance is Key: Like any other object, 3D printed creations require proper care and maintenance to ensure their longevity.

Now, let’s explore each aspect in more detail.

Does PLA Have Shelf Life?

PLA (Polylactic Acid) is one of the most commonly used materials in 3D printing. It’s known for its ease of use, low cost, and biodegradability. But does PLA have a shelf life? The answer is yes and no.

While PLA itself doesn’t have a specific shelf life, it can degrade over time when exposed to certain conditions. Factors such as exposure to UV light, moisture, and high temperatures can accelerate the degradation process. However, if stored properly in a cool and dry place, PLA can maintain its integrity for several years.

To ensure the longevity of your PLA prints, store them in an airtight container or bag with desiccant packets to absorb moisture. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures. By following these precautions, you can extend the lifespan of your PLA prints.

Reasons Why PLA Prints Go Bad

While PLA is a versatile material, it does have some limitations. Here are a few reasons why PLA prints may not last as long as prints made from other materials:

  1. Brittleness: PLA is relatively brittle compared to other materials, which makes it more prone to cracking or breaking under stress. Avoid subjecting PLA prints to excessive force or impact.

  2. UV Sensitivity: PLA is sensitive to UV light and may degrade when exposed to sunlight for extended periods. Consider using UV-resistant coatings or paints to protect your prints if they will be exposed to sunlight.

  3. Moisture Absorption: PLA has a tendency to absorb moisture from the surrounding environment, which can lead to warping or degradation over time. Proper storage and sealing can help mitigate this issue.

  4. Heat Sensitivity: PLA has a relatively low glass transition temperature, which means it can soften or deform under high temperatures. Avoid exposing PLA prints to heat sources such as hot water or direct sunlight.

While these factors can affect the longevity of PLA prints, with proper care and precautions, you can still enjoy them for a long time.

How to Make PLA 3D Printed Parts Last Longer

To increase the lifespan of your PLA 3D printed parts, here are some tips and techniques you can employ:

Tips for Increasing the Lifespan of 3D Printed Objects

  • Optimize Design: Design your objects with structural integrity in mind. Consider adding support structures or reinforcing weak areas to improve durability.
  • Print with High Infill: Increasing the infill percentage can enhance the strength and durability of your prints. Aim for a higher infill percentage for functional parts.
  • Use Thicker Walls: Thicker walls can provide additional strength and resistance to stress. Adjust your print settings to achieve thicker and more robust walls.
  • Apply Post-Processing Techniques: Sanding, sealing, or reinforcing your prints can improve their durability. Consider using epoxy resin, filler materials, or coatings to strengthen your prints.
  • Avoid Excessive Force: While PLA prints can be surprisingly strong, they still have their limits. Avoid subjecting them to excessive force or stress to prevent cracking or breaking.

The Role of Material Choice

While PLA is a popular choice for 3D printing, there are other materials available that offer increased durability and longevity. Consider exploring materials such as ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol), or Nylon for applications where extra strength is required.

Each material has its own strengths and weaknesses, so choose the one that best suits your specific needs. Experimenting with different materials can open up new possibilities for durable and long-lasting prints.

Post-Processing Techniques for Enhanced Durability

Post-processing techniques can significantly improve the durability and lifespan of your 3D printed objects. Here are some techniques to consider:

  • Sanding: Sanding the surfaces of your prints can smooth out imperfections and strengthen weak areas. It can also provide a better surface for painting or other finishing techniques.
  • Sealing: Applying a sealant or coating to your prints can protect them from moisture and UV light. Consider using epoxy resin, polyurethane, or specialized sealants designed for 3D prints.
  • Reinforcing: Adding additional reinforcement to your prints can increase their strength. Techniques such as embedding metal rods or inserting threaded inserts can provide extra stability and durability.

Experiment with different post-processing techniques to find the ones that work best for your specific prints and applications.

The Impact of Design and Print Settings

The design and print settings you choose can have a significant impact on the durability of your 3D prints. Here are some considerations:

  • Structural Integrity: Design your objects with proper structural support and reinforcement. Consider adding fillets, chamfers, or ribs to distribute stress evenly.
  • Layer Adhesion: Ensure good layer adhesion by optimizing your print settings. Adjust parameters such as nozzle temperature, print speed, and cooling to achieve strong layer bonding.
  • Orientation: Print orientation can affect the strength and durability of your prints. Experiment with different orientations to find the one that provides the best balance between strength and aesthetics.

By paying attention to design and print settings, you can create prints that are not only visually appealing but also durable and long-lasting.


An artist's illustration of artificial intelligence (AI). This image represents data transmittance in reinforcement learning. It was created by Vincent Schwenk as part of the Visualising AI project launched by Google DeepMind.

How long will a PLA 3D print last?

The lifespan of a PLA 3D print can vary depending on several factors such as the quality of the print, the material used, and the conditions it is exposed to. With proper care and maintenance, PLA prints can last for several years. However, it’s important to note that PLA is not as durable as some other materials, so it may be more prone to degradation over time.

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Are there any drawbacks of 3D printing?

While 3D printing offers numerous advantages, there are also some drawbacks to consider. These include:

  • Limited Material Selection: Although the range of available materials for 3D printing is expanding, it is still more limited compared to traditional manufacturing methods.
  • Print Quality Variability: Achieving consistent print quality can be challenging, especially for beginners. Factors such as printer calibration, filament quality, and print settings can affect the outcome of prints.
  • Post-Processing Requirements: Depending on the desired finish and functionality, post-processing techniques may be required. This adds additional time and effort to the printing process.

Despite these drawbacks, 3D printing continues to revolutionize various industries and offer unique opportunities for creativity and innovation.

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How reliable is 3D printing?

The reliability of 3D printing can vary depending on several factors such as the printer used, the print settings, and the operator’s skill level. While modern 3D printers have become more reliable and user-friendly, there can still be occasional issues such as failed prints, misprints, or material inconsistencies.

It’s important to invest in a reliable 3D printer, use high-quality filaments, and follow best practices to minimize the chances of print failures. Regular maintenance and calibration of the printer are also essential for consistent and reliable results.

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In conclusion, 3D printed objects can last a long time if they are designed, printed, and maintained properly. While PLA prints may not be as durable as prints made from other materials, they can still withstand regular use and maintain their integrity for years. By choosing the right material, optimizing your design, applying post-processing techniques, and taking proper care of your prints, you can ensure their longevity and enjoy them for a long time.

Remember, the lifespan of a 3D printed object depends on various factors, and it’s important to consider the specific requirements and conditions of your prints. Experiment, learn from experience, and continue to explore new techniques and materials to enhance the durability and longevity of your 3D prints.

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