Can you use recycled materials in 3D Printing? Maybe the better question is should you? Hosts, Tom and Tracy Hazzard, debate the merits of recycled content in 3D Printing filament. Listen to them as they dive deeper to this topic and help you decide whether to use recycled or not.
Listen to the podcast here:
Can You Use Recycled Material In Filament?
This is Ask Us Anything segment.
Ask us almost anything. Luckily this is my favorite subject.
It’s material week.
We’ve had a lot of great questions. I’m sure there is going to be a lot more because there are many questions about materials, different types of materials and all sorts of things. This episode has an interesting question because it makes me nervous.
It’s about how practical is it to use recycled materials in 3D printing.
A large portion of chair bases, furniture parts, and those kinds of things are made from a high percentage of recycled content. It’s almost 100% recyclable.
We’ve made a lot of office chairs made of almost entirely plastic like mesh type of chairs in China and in the US. They will use the largest amount of recycled content they can. As a result, they have a lot of problems.
They try to stay away from virgin plastics because it costs so much more. Because they’re painting it and finishing it, they don’t have an issue with the quality of the color. They’re not coloring them that way. Recycled content, in general, we’ve had a lot of problems because it causes more frequently voids in the plastic. It causes issues with the structural integrity of the plastic.
The properties of the plastic go down, the more recycled content you put in it. In general, it’s a great environmental thing to want to use recycled plastic. In 3D printing, it’s hard enough to work out all the settings and get predictable results. Introducing recycled content into the filament complicates that so much. I do not recommend it.
I don’t know if I don’t recommend it yet because we haven’t tried it. There are a couple of guys who have contacted us over time and I bumped into it in a few meetups. We’re going to have to talk to them in more detail about it, about what they’re doing to make it more consistent. If you’re having issues printing your what, then you ought to be careful about what you print with. You’re just adding a level of complication you don’t need.
You hear about projects on Kickstarter where somebody is making a filament extruder where they grind up recycled milk jugs or something and are making filament at it. That’s a great goal, but I don’t even want to spend too much time myself trying to get that to work. There’s going to be so much inconsistency.
My background in bonded leather makes me nervous. I’ve read about this Kickstarter where they’re grinding up wood pulp or some wood chips and putting it into a woodlay filament. It sounds like a great idea. There are lots of wasted chips of wood around or whatever and they’re trying to use it up. The reality is that you then take what is such a nice natural material, which is the same thing that happens with bonded leather. It’s little scraps of leather all ground up and then you coat it with the most disgusting plastics, coated latex and all sorts of stuff. That’s what bonded leather ends up being. You’ve coated it and the reality is that it’s a mistake to think that it’s actually leather.
Also to think that it’s completely recycled because, in a lot of those cases, they’re grinding up perfectly good leather to make bonded leather. Because the bottom leather material is more even inconsistent, it doesn’t have marks.
They’re grinding up what is seconds of leather. It’s a lower grade of leather, but they’re still grinding up perfectly good leather that could be used on wallets, handbags and in small places, on shoes and other things. They’re just not using them for that first round of use. It’s not like they’re taking old shoes and then grinding it up. It’s not happening. It’s definitely not post-consumer. Those chemicals that are required to coat it to, to mix with it, to co-extrude with it, that’s high.
In the end, is your energy output, the water required or whatever it is that you need to process it, is that environmentally friendly in and of itself. That’s where I caution and wonder. There’s also a source issue. When we were doing our chair bases, there was the whole problem when the earthquake happened in Japan. They had a shortage of most of their materials. The recycled materials for at least the region in China where we were working through, came from Japan. They had a shortage of recycled material to turn it into a new product for us. We had to start using virgin material in its place. The amount of material that it takes might be too high. I don’t think we have enough. We have a lot of recycling but do we have enough recycling that’s clean enough trash to be able to turn into it to extrude it ourselves?
I don’t think so.
I don’t think so, either. Do you have to then go and buy trash from somewhere?
You’d have to collect it somehow.
Maybe there’s a great business in that. I do think that somebody could do that, but I don’t know if I want to do it. I certainly don’t know if it’s a great idea for my what that I want to be printing.
I don’t recommend it. Maybe there are perfectly good applications for other people doing certain kinds of products. If it works for you, that’s wonderful. More power to you. We’d like to hear about it if you are.
It would be cool if you could recycle your support material and turn it right back into PVA again and again. That would be a cool application of it.
People are doing things like that but it’s hard. You’d have to generate a lot of support material and a lot of rafts of the same color to put back in to make more filament. If you’re going to grind up every different color of support and rough material and create just an odd color, maybe it gets more brown or black because you’re mixing all the colors.
I was thinking we would do PVA again and again, like you remelt your PVA. Instead of dissolving it off, you could melt it off or something. I don’t know, it could happen.
I don’t know much about extruding PVA. We only know a little bit about PLA and ABS.
There’s probably an application for that. I just don’t know if I recommend it, especially for a newbie. If you are new to 3D printing, let’s not complicate your life. Let’s keep it with what works.
Stick with the good quality filaments. We don’t even recommend people buy cheap or low-end filaments because there’s questionable quality consistency using those materials.
You’ve got to remember that your time into the machine, your time into figuring out settings, your time is your most valuable asset.
Your most costly expense.
Anything that you can do that is quicker and faster can get you dialed in to the right place you need to be, that’s what you want to be doing, especially early on. When you want to do advanced experimentation, go for it.
It’s not the path of least resistance though.
We hope that answers your question. If you’ve got more or if you’ve got recycled material and you want to talk us into, we’re willing to know it.
We’d love to know it. Go to our website HazzDesign.com and we have an Ask Us page where you can record a message there to us. You can do it on our Facebook page or send us an email and any way you want to get in touch with us.
Thanks very much.
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