The Pioreactor is built using 3D printing technology, and is made up of the most common 3D printing plastic: PLA. (Fun fact: PLA is manufactured via fermentation! The "LA" in PLA is lactic acid). We love PLA - it's easy to use, has consistent properties, and looks great. However, it's limited by its glass transition temperature. That's the temperature when it's soft enough to deform under load. For PLA, that temperature is between 60℃ to 70℃, depending on the manufacturer. This limits how hot we can let our heating PCB get. Users of Pioreactor may have seen warnings like "Temperature of heating surface has exceeded..." - this is because the heating PCB has gotten just above our internal safety thresholds for PLA. There's actually a lot more "juice" we can push out of the heating PCB, but we have to limit it.
So why not use a different plastic? We can, but there's not a lot of alternatives: PETG has only a slightly better glass transition temperature, but is also messy to work with, costs more, and has a specular surface finish.
Users have asked for higher temperatures, too. They are growing thermophiles at 60℃, 70℃, and higher! How can we help?
Well, we did start using Prusa's Polycarbonate CF (PC-CF) for our vial caps, and we really, really, like it. It's very strong, easy to print, has a high glass transition temperature (high enough that it can be autoclaved, sans load), and is a beautiful matte black.
So starting today, we're offering two upgrades:
1. When you purchase a Pioreactor, you can now choose to upgrade to PC-CF.
2. An upgrade kit to replace your existing PLA Pioreactor with PC-CF.
Feel free to put your Pioreactor in an incubator! Happy growing! 🦠