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Sustainability Is Key

The 3D Printer Filament Recycler’s Guide

Picture of Brian Obudho
by Brian Obudho
Dec 21, 2018
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Planet Earth is choking on plastic waste, creating a real need for the 3D printing community to adopt sustainable methods. We tell you how this can be achieved, especially through the use of a 3D printer filament recycler.

3D Printer Filament Recycler's Guide A World of Plastic

Scrap plastic.
Scrap plastic. Source: softpedia.com

Plastic waste continues to find its way into landfills and waterbodies, posing a significant ecological challenge that may send Planet Earth to its knees. In a year alone, thousands of marine creatures succumb to plastic entanglement while millions stand the risk of plastic ingestion.

This is why conscientious 3D printing enthusiasts are resorting to green 3D printing, which involves reducing, reusing, and recycling excess plastic from failed prints. Digital sculptors need to understand how to make good use of their PLA and ABS if they want to control this mayhem-causing material that allegedly takes somewhere from 10 to 1000 years to decompose.

This leads us to one important question: How can one be an ecologically friendly maker?

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3D Printer Filament Recycler's Guide Reuse 3D Printed Waste

ProtoCycler+
ProtoCycler+ Source: redetec.com

Turn your 3D printed waste into new spools using a 3D printer filament recycler. The typical recycler will smash failed prints into smaller pieces, melt them down, and force the liquid plastic through an opening. The hot plastic is then cooled down and coiled onto a reel.

Some tips when using a 3D printer filament recycler:

  • Don’t mix different types of filaments. Doing so may lead to undesirable printing results.
  • Ensure your filament or plastic is clean and separated. For example, it is highly likely that you will get better results when you use plastic that has the same chemical composition.

Not all machines are able to both shred and extrude. This means that, depending on your needs, you may have to buy two machines.

Shredding

You can make a DIY shredder or purchase a ready-made shredder like the SHR3D IT. The Filabot Reclaimer is another great option — compatible with HIPS, PLA, and ABS — even though it is currently out of stock.

It’s important to note that shredding plastic can be a bit tasky for the average DIYer. This is primarily because grinding plastic puts a strain on the ordinary motors found in commercial appliances. A simple solution is to get an industrial shredder with a powerful motor, but in this case, be ready to spend more.

Extrusion

There are several extruders in the market, ranging from DIY extruders to plug-and-play machines.

Here are a few examples of extruders you can buy:

  • Open source options include the Recyclebot or the Lyman/Mulier Filament Extruder.
  • Filastruder Kit: The Filastruder Kit will extrude PLA without any trouble, but you have to ensure that the polymer is thoroughly dried before extruding. PLA requires extra cooling and a winder with a clear and clean space for it to coil. ABS will also work well in the Filastruder. Other polymers that can be successfully extruded by the Filastruder Kit include PVA, PC, PMMA, Acrylic, TPE, PEEK, and PCL, among others.
  • Strooder: Strooder has a touchscreen interface and comes pre-loaded with extrusion settings for PLA and ABS. It will also work well with PP, Nylon, and PE.
  • Filabot EX2 filament extruder: Works with a wide range of polymers, including PC, PS, PEEK, HIPS, PLA, ABS, and several others.
  • FilaFab Extruders: The 100 series are ideal for producing PLA and ABS filament, but they have a low volume and are designed for short runs. On the other hand, the 350 series will work with more materials, including Nylon and HDPE. The Pro 350 and the Pro 350 EX are ideal for those makers who have a higher demand for filament.  
  • Noztek Pro: Noztek Pro works with a range of polymers, including HDPE, ABS, PET, PP, PLA, and many more.

1.1. Shred and Extrude: The ProtoCycler

The ProtoCycler is the quintessential 3D printer filament recycler because it can perform both shredding and extrusion. It represents a great way to reuse your scrap filament from failed prints or from small bits of filament that would typically go unused.

This 3D printer filament recycler is the work of former classmates David Joyce and Alex Kay, who were fed up with purchasing expensive filament. They joined forces and built a machine that could recycle their material for them.

The result was the ProtoCycle, which grinds plastic into digestible pieces, melts the plastic down, extrudes it, and coils it onto a spool. This device is computer-controlled to ensure consistency.

Using this type of machine at home is more demanding compared to using a regular 3D printer. Nevertheless, it’s accessible to any dedicated DIYer who cares about plastic waste.

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3D Printer Filament Recycler's Guide 1.2. Shred and Extrude: Build a Filament "Factory"

DIY recycling machines from Precious Plastic.
DIY recycling machines from Precious Plastic. Source: springwise.com

As the war against plastic waste gains momentum, more initiatives are coming up to encourage people to recycle and reuse plastic. One such initiative is Precious Plastic, a Dutch project dedicated to helping people establish plastic recycling workshops.

Precious Plastic has established recycling machines with the capability of injecting and extruding plastic. With these machines, it’s possible to make filament from recycled plastics, and Precious Plastic has made the blueprints open source.

In addition, the project is continuously building recycling communities, holding clean-ups, and always spreading information about the overwhelming plastic pollution problem in a bid to empower populations about better plastic use.

Get the 3D printer filament recyclers from Precious Plastic and create your filament factory. The appliances include an extruder, compressor, shredder, and an injection molder. The extrusion machine will help you create filament whenever you need one, and you also get to recycle your old or worn out prints.

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3D Printer Filament Recycler's Guide Only Purchase Recycled Filament

Buzzed beer filament from 3Dom Filaments.
Buzzed beer filament from 3Dom Filaments. Source: 3dfuel.com

Recycled filaments are commercially available, and purchasing them means you’ll be reducing your environmental footprint while increasing sustainability. RefilFilamentive, and Tridea are examples of sellers who stock recycled filaments. 3DBrooklyn has a filament made from potato chip bags while 3Dom Filaments has a beer filament made from the byproducts of the beer-making process.

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3D Printer Filament Recycler's Guide Use a 3D Printer Filament Recycler Service

RePLAy3D Scrap Box
RePLAy3D Scrap Box Source: replay-3d.com

ABS and PLA are two commonly used 3D printing filaments, but they cannot be easily recycled. Therefore, you may need to use the services of a 3D printer filament recycler. One example is RePLAy3D.

RePLAy3D is a filament manufacturer and distributor, like plenty of others, but the company also encourages users to recycle filaments under a special program called Closed-Loop Recycling.

The program works by collecting filament scraps from different users and recycling the scrap into new filament. RePLAy3D even has reward programs for committed hobbyists who collect their scraps regularly.

License: The text of "The 3D Printer Filament Recycler’s Guide" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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