3D recycled Filament as an Opportunity for Waste Recovery

23. 4 .2020, Cyrkl

The 3D printing industry is one of the most interesting industries due to its speed and ability to grow. In 2018, the market was worth $ 10 billion, and in 2024 it is projected to climb to $ 35 billion. Europe is the continent that has the largest share in this business, after North America. 3D printing is used in many industries, from the military industry to medicine and energy to construction. We have therefore decided to introduce you to the use of waste and recycled in 3D printing.

Recycled filament for 3D printing

Materials for printing can be divided into primary and secondary (so-called recycled materials) according to the origin of the raw material. We asked two printers about recycled filaments, one domestic small printer, Ondřej Čehovský, and Kateřina Nováková from Pet Mat, who are researching in the field of recycled filaments and their use in 3D printing for construction.

We have combined the advantages and disadvantages of the two printers mentioned above for recycled filaments. But as Ondřej Čehovský adds: “We cannot divide printer filaments only according to the origin of the raw material. The idea of ​​3D printing is mainly based, among other things, on the fact that you can use a huge variety of different materials that have completely different properties. Some are suitable for recycling, others are not. It is necessary to take the fact that PET seems, thanks to the possibility of recycling, suitable, but you have to keep it dry, dry it. The printing temperature and energy consumption are much higher than, for example, with the mentioned PLA. ”

Kateřina Nováková adds the following to the aesthetic advantages of recycled PET material: "Recycled PET material is a very beautiful material, it looks like glass on the outside, it has reflections in the sun and it is transparent at night and can be illuminated." This can be a great advantage or a sought-after feature when used.

Pet Mat is also researching recycled filaments. "One of the biggest challenges in using recycled material is thermal instability and high flammability. For PET, we already know that the properties of the final printed product will be very similar to those of a clear PET product. Glycol, which is added to PET to improve its printing properties. It seems that it will be necessary to add it to the recycled material as well. We have verified that it is possible to print 100% recycled material, but with the addition of glycol it is much more user-friendly, ”adds Nováková from her experience.

Recycled printing material may be indistinguishable from primary

Although recycled materials have their advantages and disadvantages, recycled filaments do not have to lag behind primary ones. It is necessary to consider, as mentioned above, their use for specific situations. Research that can take the recycled filament one mile further and help it compare the step with the primary filament can also help significantly.

Nováková says: “The purity of the material has been fine-tuned in two years of research so that it is not a problem at all, and the material is indistinguishable from the non-recycled one. On the contrary, one is surprised by its aesthetics and translucency. "

Waste from 3D printing is enormous

A large amount of waste is generated during domestic as well as industrial 3D printing. Its subsequent solution depends on the type of material. For example, ABS and PET material can normally be thrown into yellow containers and then find its way into cement plants as fuel. PLA material, which cannot be recycled like plastic, is problematic, and many printers, especially environmentally-minded printers, struggle to dispose of it.

Of course, waste can be recycled. However, as Čehovský adds: "It is possible to purchase equipment for domestic production directly, but the quality and purchase price will never match the production lines, which efficiently produce kilometers of new filament per day." Due to the high purchase price of recycling machines, it is almost impossible for home printers to recycle material, in addition to the required quality.

Biowaste in 3D printing services
Various commodities from which printing material can be produced and supplied can be used in printing. As we mentioned, it is more about machining and recycling in bulk. However, Kateřina Nováková adds that at Pet Mat, they are now cooperating with Filament PM on the development of recycled filament from sugar beet processing residues. However, waste wood is commonly added to PLA materials, for example. Less common materials for filament production may include, for example, coffee grounds or orange peel from juice production or waste from brewing production.

Waste biofilaments are not yet a common part of 3D printing life, but they do offer great potential due to the consequently greater recycling potential than current materials. For manufacturing companies, this method could also be another space for the processing of waste material, for which they can no longer find use.

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