The effects of Three-dimensional (3D) printing on the environment are one of the common topics, considering that people are now becoming aware of their waste and carbon footprint.
For individuals who love 3D printing, one of the questions that will always come across your way is whether the form of printing is environment-friendly. In fact, 3D printing comes with many benefits and environmental-friendliness is one of them.
Manufacturing of 3D models with metals, fabrics and some other materials involves having very large leftover amounts. Most of the leftovers are unusable and contribute to landfill waste.
3D printing uses LPD technology, including that the Polish company Zortrax produces, which does not have any waste. The waste comes from the support material solely.
In fact, the waste from support materials is relatively small, which means that it is not a major problem. You will be able to create the number of models you want without having to trim anything.
And most importantly, you will be able to create the models on the time you want and exactly how you want to. 3-dimensional printing is a great solution for low-volume productions because it is environmentally friendly at that level.
Some companies like General Electric, Bosch and many automotive companies are employing the technology in mass production.
In the world of 3D printing, you should expect many polymer-based filaments. The producers of these filaments mainly use oil to produce them. Any filament made of single material is recyclable.
As we have already said, the filaments from Zortraxare certified as appropriate for reprocessing and recycling. Even more, they are completely green and 100 percent biodegradable.
You should not worry about the dust associated with the printing. Scientists have been analyzing it and they are likely to release their results very soon.
What 3D Printing Filament Can You Recycle?
Most municipal recycling programs cannot recycle the classic types of 3-dimensional printing filaments – PLA and ABS. The ASTM International Resin Identifier Codes classifies both PLA and ABS as Type 7 or Others, which the municipal programs cannot process.
In other words, you should not just throw any failed 3D print into the municipal recycling bin.
PETG and PETE have similar chemical quality but most programs exclude PETG in the list of the recyclable materials. The chemical properties of PETG are very similar to those of the PET plastic, but it has a low melting point.
The low melting point makes it a contaminant during the recycling process of PETE. It is hard to differentiate PET plastic from PETE and it reduces temperature stability of the PETE material dangerously if mixed in.
People rarely use polypropylene (PP) filament in 3D printing because of its semi-crystalline nature that causes it to warp while cooling. The few people who choose to print with it can send the leftover or the damaged prints to the municipal recycling centers for recycling – remember that some centers may not accept the material for recycling.
Almost every other type of filament for 3D printing falls in the Type 7 category. That includes polycarbonate and nylon. PLA, ABS as we have already said are not recyclable, and the normal plastic recycling centers will not accept them.
Most local recycling programs rarely turn the failed 3D prints into usable plastic, but some independent plastic processing and recycling companies will recycle any material that the local pickup service does not recycle.
Therefore, you will have to contact some of the local recycling companies to know whether they accept the type of plastic that you use to make your 3D models. Most companies will not accept waste material from the non-verified sources.
If they are ready to accept the waste material, you should accumulate bigger batches and drop them periodically. You can also use a communal box to gather the failed prints and send them to the company each time the box is full. Remember to differentiate the types of plastic and mark the boxes properly.
How to Reuse 3D Printed Scrap Material
You can turn any 3-dimensional waste into usable spools with a 3D filament recycler. The general recyclers smash any failed print into small pieces and melt them down before forcing the liquefied plastic through a small opening. As the plastic cools down it coils onto a reel. When using a 3-dimensional printer recycler, you should:
- Not mix two types of filaments because by doing that you will get undesirable results.
- Clean the plastic or filament and separate it. A quick example, you will get desirable results each time you sue a filament or plastic that features the same chemical composition.
Some machines might not be able to shred and extrude. In other words, depending on your personal needs, you might need to purchase two machines for printing.
How to Shred and Extrude 3D Printer Filaments?
You do not have to purchase a filament shredder because you can make it the DIY way. However, if you do not want to get your hands dirty, you can go for the SHR3D IT or the FilabotReclaimer.
The two are compatible with PLA, HIPS and ABS. Before you start the shredding process, you should know that the process could be risky for beginner level DIYer. That is primarily because plastic grinding will strain the ordinary motors expected in the commercial appliances. The best solution is to go for a powerful motor, which might be more expensive.
The market offers many types of extruders, which range from plug-and-play machines to DIY extruders. One of them is ProtoCycler. The machine is a quintessential 3D printer material recycler because it shreds and extrudes.
It represents a better way of reusing the scrap filament form the failed prints or from the small filament bits that would otherwise go to waste. The producers, Alex Kay and David Joyce were fed up of buying expensive printing filament and they decided to join hands so that they could build an efficient machine that could recycle filaments.
They were able to come up with the ProtoCycle, a machine that grinds plastic materials into digestible pieces, melts them down, extrudes them and coils them onto spools.
The machine is computer controlled, which means that you should consistency with all projects. Use of this machine involves more work than the regular 3D printers do. It is accessible to the dedicated DIYers who care about the waste of 3D printing filament.
As people work to reduce plastic waste, inventors are working hard to encourage recycling of the materials. Another machine that you could use to shred and extrude 3D printer filaments is the Precious Plastic.
The Dutch project has helped many people establish home-based recycling workshops. The machine has the capability of injecting and extruding most printing plastics. With the machine, you will be able to make filaments from the recycled plastics. To make your work easier, you just need to buy this machine and establish a home-based factory.
Can You Reuse 3D Scrap Material? – Are They Good?
You can recycle 100 percent of the failed prints without relying on the local recycling facilities. As we have already said, you can use the filament extruders to do that.
The filament extrusion process involves three main steps, which are smashing the old parts, melting down, extruding the filament, and coiling the filament onto a new reel.
First, the machine smashes every failed print into tiny pieces. That makes the meltdown easier. After the melting, the machine forces the liquefied plastic through a tiny opening.
The machine also wraps it onto a plastic reel as it cools down. The process is more effectively such that it makes injection molding.
And because 3D uses polymer-based filaments, which are plastics made from oil, you should not fear to recycle them. You should not worry about the dust that comes up during the 3D printing.
The recycled plastic will also provide results as good as those of the original filament is. For that to happen, you will have to eliminate the supports if you can. Use of support material will result in wasted plastic and you will spend more time removing it from the model.
You can also go for the minimalistic supports.
Replay 3D – 3D Printer Filament Recycler Service
RePLAy 3D is among the first mail-in programs in the 3D printing industry. The program is designed with the aim of making the recycling of old ABS and PLA filaments straightforward and simple for commercial, home, and learning institutions printing.
The US-based 3D printing manufacturer makes 100 percent recycled ABS and PLA filaments that are usable with most printing machines.
After purchasing a PLA or ABS filament reel, the company will automatically sign you up for the RePLAy Rewards program. Their Kickstarter campaign is not a fundraiser, but a pre-sale. They are ready to take orders and their program accepts scrap.
3D printing is environmentally friendly. It does not harm the environment in any way. In fact, it is beneficial to the environment. Use of recycled and biodegradable materials is noticeable today and people are developing more solutions.
Mass-scale 3-dimensional 3D printing means lesser waste, which is unlikely to happen with the other manufacturing technologies.
If 3D printing becomes available in every home, we will save on logistics and save the environment because it is greener than most traditional manufacturing methods.
Its effects on the global environment highly depend on the level of usage. The huge capabilities and the ease of use are some of the factors that make more people go for this technology.