Polylactic acid, or polylactide (PLA) is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester formally obtained by condensation of lactic acid with loss of water (hence its name). It can also be prepared by ring-opening polymerization of lactide.
The name “poly (lactic acid)” does not comply with IUPAC standard nomenclature, and is potentially ambiguous or confusing, because PLA is not a polyacid (polyelectrolyte), but rather a polyester.
PLA has become a popular material due to it being economically produced from renewable resources. In 2010, PLA had the second highest consumption volume of any bioplastic of the world, although it is still not a commodity polymer. Its widespread application has been hindered by numerous physical and processing shortcomings. PLA is the most widely used plastic filament material in 3D printing. PLA was discovered in the 1920s by Wallace Corothers the scientist who invented nylon, but it never had been successfully commercialized on a large scale. PLA is a bioplastic made from lactic acid and is used in the food industry to package sensitive food products.
However, PLA is too fragile and is not compatible with many packaging manufacturing processes. Therefore it should be strengthen with additives or compounded with other bioplastics to improve its properties.