Plastic waste is a global problem that we face today. Most of this waste ends up in oceans, destroying the underwater ecosystem and harming all living things in the water.
As 3D printing has recently played an increasingly important role in the world, the technology has also developed so that materials can be reused or recycled.
Below you can read some strategies on how to reduce, reuse and recycle 3D prints.
REDUCING WASTE FROM 3D PRINTERS
The best way to solve this crisis is to reduce the use of plastic material. There are several ways to do this (before you start printing).
Support (when printing)
The recommended approach is to eliminate the need for supports from the design stage. Models with overhangs need supports, because the model needs material under the overhang to add a new layer. For example, instead of a 90-degree angle in prints, you can design models that use multiple arches.
If the designs are used for a functional end-use this will not be possible; however, it is good practice to already consider the ecological impact of making the design during the design process.
Infill reduction also means less filament consumption. Usually, it is not possible to eliminate it completely; however, consider how you can use as little infill as possible.
For example, if you are printing a model use 100% infill where you will make the screw holes, while for the rest of the model use 50% infill. This way your model will still be of good quality with less filament used.
Printing smaller parts
One last thing to consider before printing is how many prints you put on the build plate at one time. It’s a good idea to separate your prints into smaller parts so that if you make a printing error, you lose less material. This can also save a lot of time in the event of printing errors.
If the design is particularly large and one-part, you can divide it by adding tabs and appropriate openings to connect the parts. By dividing the components into several printouts, you can save plastic, time and money.
BUY ALREADY RECYCLED FILAMENT
There is a wide choice of recycled filament available today and prices are affordable. Recycled filament can be of the same or better quality than conventional filament, as manufacturers want to ensure quality material for 3D printing.
If you have a lot of waste filament and don’t know what to do with it, you can send it to different companies, one of which is Printerior, where you can earn store credit for the purchase of new filament.
REUSE OF 3D PRINTING WASTE
If you have a lot of plastic waste, you can make your own filament. You will need specialised equipment to do this, but there are some commercially available options for making recycled filament.
Create recycled filament
There are two main processes: shredding and extrusion. The first prepares the plastic for melting and the second melts and re-forms the shredded plastic. To create a consistent thickness and viscosity of the molten filament, the input plastic must have the same material properties and the shreds must be of the same size.
During the extrusion process, the plastic passes through the hot end where it is melted and then pushed through a nozzle which determines the diameter of the filament. The usual nozzle diameters are 1,75 mm and 3,00 mm, which correspond to the two usual filament diameters. Once the molten plastic has cured, it needs to be wound onto a spool. The process of placing the filament on the spool is quite important as it affects the consistency of the filament diameter. The winder must pull at a steady speed so as not to elongate the filament while it is still pliable.