How 3D Printing and Recycling Go Hand in Hand

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The invention of 3D printing is definitely a great achievement in this modern world. But just like any other electronic advancement, one of the questions this innovation faces is how does it affect our environment? With climate change, pollution, and overpopulation being pressing problems of the times, it is only fair that people are becoming more particular about the impact of new technology on the environment.

3D Printing as a Sustainable Production Method

Because 3D printing allows you to do on-site production, there is less cost, carbon emissions, and energy involved in the process. Aside from that, it is more efficient in terms of material consumption because it employs additive manufacturing. This means you are building products from the bottom up using the material only where you need it.

The 3D printing industry of today is still working to be even more sustainable and eco-friendly. Manufacturers and consumers of 3D printing products continuously assess and find ways to lower their environmental impact, and one of these solutions is to incorporate recycling wherever and whenever possible in the 3D printing process.

Recycling 3D Printing Materials

Manufacturers of 3D printing materials know that plastic products are one of the worst pollutants on Earth. In an effort to lessen the amount of plastic waste, some companies have produced filaments or pellets from recycled plastic products. Others even recycle unused or failed 3D printed prototypes and turn them into filaments. Talk about no wastage!

There are already a handful of 3D printing material manufacturers who accept unwanted 3D prints or unused filament so you can search for one near your locality to contribute to the recycling movement.

Aside from recycling plastic products into new printing materials, there has also been an increase in using more environmentally friendly products for filaments and pellets, such as paper, architectural wood waste, and even agricultural crops.

Reusing or Upcycling Filament Spools

Gathering a pile of filament spools is a problem most 3D printing enthusiasts face. Luckily, with some resourcefulness and creativity, you can put those spools into good use again instead of just dumping them in a landfill. – Sell or donate them to companies that manufacture recycled or new filament.

  • Wrap extension cords, string, and wires around them for better organising in your workshop or home.
  • Give them to people who are into gift wrapping or crafts that use ribbons, strings, and other materials that can use spools.
  • Make toys, like a ferris wheel for your kids or grandkids. Check out this neat mechanised ferris wheel for ideas.
  • Use them as funky legs for a lightweight table.
  • Need a rotating spice rack? Use one of those filament spools!
  • Stick them on walls and use them as quirky pegs for bags, coats, and what-not.
  • Create a sculpture using several spools glued together or use a spool as a stand for your sculpture.

Maybe you have even better ideas on how to put those filament spools into good use, so go ahead and test your creativity today.

Supporting Recycling and the 3D Printing Industry

It cannot be denied that the 3D Printing industry will continue to thrive. To make sure that its advancements will have a more positive rather than negative impact on the world, 3D printing enthusiasts should continue to support and be active players in the movement to limit the amount of waste, carbon emissions, and pollution.

The Advancement of 3D Printing Materials

When 3D printing was first commercialised in the 1980s it was mostly used for small scale prototypes and its industry growth was quite slow. At that time, the hardware was slow and the prints lacked the properties required for use in products for the medical, electronics, or even home utensils sector. Designs were limited to cheap, disposable plastics that were weak and had no functional properties. But in recent years, the 3D printing industry has been growing rapidly.

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The Growth of 3D Printing

More 3D printing software and hardware have been developed not only for the commercial or industrial sectors, but even for hobbyists and product designers working from their own homes. Prices of 3D printers declined. The ability to create highly customised designs on-site became a much speedier process. You could now do quicker design iterations, have more freedom with designs, waste fewer materials, and assemble high-quality end-use parts with a more simplified method. Business and designers began to see the huge opportunity 3D printing presents in manufacturing all types of products, from mobile phones to artificial ligaments.

Demand for more 3D printing materials

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and polylactic acid (PLA) plastics used to be the only materials used in 3D printing. However, 3D printing is now a technology used in architecture, medicine, aerospace, jewellery, and other high-profile industries, and most of the end-use parts used in these industries cannot be made just from ABS or PLA plastics. Thus, the development of novel 3D printing materials needed to be addressed.

As newer materials were introduced or existing ones greatly improved, the filament production industry grew rapidly. In fact, a study in www.idtechex.com states that seven key materials (photopolymers, thermoplastic powders, thermoplastic filaments, metal powders, welding wire, plaster, sand and binder) are predicted to have a total market value of over $8 billion by 2025.

Another reason why there is a growing demand for improved or new 3D printing materials is lot-to-lot variations in the adhesion, melting temperature, and other properties of most materials proved to be a challenge in producing consistent results. Today, filament manufacturers are producing filaments with more consistent viscosities, melting points, and other important characteristics. These materials can print stronger products that are more aesthetically appealing. This is because they have layers that are more tightly bonded and are smoother.

The desire to create more environmentally friendly 3D printed products is another reason for the filament market’s advancement and growth. There is now biodegradable thermoplastic, professionally engineered ABS filament produced from 100% recycled plastic, filament made from coffee by-products, and printing materials made from paper or architectural wood waste composite.

The Role of 3D Printing Materials Advancements in the 3D Printing Industry

It cannot be denied that locally manufactured and highly customised items will become more widespread and affordable as the 3D printing industry continues to move forward. And in order for 3D printed parts to keep up with the market demands, the materials used need to be as advanced, or even more advanced, as the printers.