It’s time to 3D print with the filament we extruded from our plastic recycled waste. Let’s get to it!
From commodity plastics all the way to high-performance plastics, we have tested them all. Read into our adventures with those different materials.
Time to extrude your plastic waste into filament! We have listed a couple of things for you that you should consider first before extruding.
Let’s talk about the steps you need to take to produce quality filament from your regrinds
Which plastic materials can and cannot be recycled? How can different types of plastics be recognized? Luckily for you, we have the answers to your questions!
Have you always been curious to learn how to recycle plastics? Follow our recycling journey – where we will teach you how!
The term “polymer” or plastics refers to a rather simple concept, which can be easily explained with some simplified chemistry. To understand the world of polymers, we will look at materials used in everyday items and what regulates their properties and behavior. This is the introduction to our series into plastics, their properties and their wide range of applications. So keep an eye on our blog page for more to come!
What is a polymer?
Polymers, or plastics (both words can be used as synonyms) are one of the 5 main families of materials:
- Ceramics and glasses
- Composites (usually a combination of a polymer and an additive from another family)
Materials from the same family have a similar behavior. For example, metals and ceramics are much more resistant thermally and mechanically than polymers, but also a lot harder to process. In most cases, polymers are rather inexpensive and easy-to-process, lightweight materials used for a variety of commodity applications and some high performance applications.
Polymers from a chemical perspective
Why is ABS softer than steel? The physical (mechanical, thermal) behavior of polymers differentiates them from the other families and comes from their unique chemical nature. In other terms, their macroscopic properties depend on their microscopic structure. Understanding the macro/micro links is the key to predict and control polymers and all materials.
Plastics are considered organic matter, which means that the majority of their mass is carbon-based. At a microscopic level, unlike other materials, polymers consist of large groups of atoms called macromolecules. What differentiates polymers from “normal” matter is that they are made of molecules of great size called macromolecules, instead of much smaller molecules or even atoms.
Instead of thinking of plastics as solids, think of them as being made of long molecules called “chains”, this can simplify scientific explanations. For instance, molten plastic can be seen as long molecules sliding against one another like a fluid.
Molecules are mostly carbon-based causing the light weight of plastics, and their great size is the source of their durability. While remaining chemically similar, polymers have an incredible diversity for a limitless range of applications.
Categories of polymers for different applications
The family of polymers can be divided in subcategories. A commonly used method is to classify plastics depending on their application level:
- Commodity plastics for basic applications, like PET used for bottles
- Engineering plastics for specific applications, such as TPU used for cable jacketing
- High-performance plastics which offer a wide range of outstanding properties, including structural applications above 200°C with PEEK
3devo’s Pyramid of Polymers shows simply what the different tiers of plastics are, their applications with the most common examples.
High-performance polymers tend to be more expensive than the lower tiers of plastics, but they are not the only solution. The best material varies depending on the constraints that come with a specific application. Surprisingly working materials can be discovered by mixing certain polymers with certain additives, like carbon fibers.
Working with plastics
Most polymers are thermoplastics, meaning they are capable of being melted/solidified via heating/cooling. Melting a polymer means heating it until its macromolecular chains can move freely, this polymer can then be given a new shape. That is exactly what extrusion, injection molding, and 3D printing do: melting the polymer with heat and giving it a new shape (then cooling it down, of course).
Filament extrusion and 3D printing go perfect together: the extrusion step reshapes granules or powder into filament, the 3D printing step then reshapes the filament into any other item.
If you want to dig deeper into the extrusion process, stay tuned for our extrusion blog series in the upcoming weeks. In the mean time, you can learn about how a plastic can be melted and reused, you can find a recycling study here:
You might also like the following posts:
What can possibly make 3D printing even more fun and captivating? A variety of filaments you can use to bring ideas to life! That why making your own filament is convenient and fun. Just in case you still have a hard time grasping the value in filament making – No problem, here are some points to guide you.
If you’ve worked with the 3D printing long enough, you may have felt a glint of disappointment regarding the lack of the materials you wish to try in your projects. Of course, color changing, and glowing filaments are fun, just like the super-flexible ones, but creators need more potential and more appliance possibilities for their final printed items. And this is the exact reason to consider making your own 3D filament instead of purchasing the ready-made one.
We don’t know about your experience, but we face the defective filament too often to blame it on the coincidence. Different thickness, fragility, lamination – all of these low-quality 3D filament features can ruin your project, or even become a cause of your 3D printer’s breakdown.
Customization – creating your material with the required properties – can eliminate all these listed problems. And here are the reasons, why.
- Filament extruder allows controlling all features of the produced filament. Thanks to the built-in thickness meter, possibility to customize all the stages of granules heating, multiple sensitive sensors, the filament you’ll get will have the identically perfect properties without any thicknesses or thinnings, overburnt sections, cavities.
- You can combine different materials in order to get entirely new blends. When the standard assortment of filaments satisfies you neither with quality nor with characteristics, you’re able to experiment with different types of plastic granules, additives, tweaking compounds to obtain something brand-new for your projects.
When making your own printing material using a 3D filament extruder, you’re controlling the future of filament.
Let’s say you need less than a kilo of the Bio PE, but don’t want to wait several days before the delivery? Simply extrude whatever amount of 3D filament is required at the time it’s needed!
A home-made filament is convenient because:
- You make the needed amount of the printing material and don’t have to keep dozens of half-empty spools you’ve used once and not going to try anymore.
- The filament will not be stored in improper conditions. Sunlight, temperature change, high humidity damage the structure of the filament making it inapplicable for printing. But when you create it on-the-go and then immediately use it for craft, you get the best quality without any odd material remains.
- No need to order filament from unreliable sites. Every time you buy 3D filament on the Internet you rely on luck – its quality is quite hard to predict unless you’re shopping from your trusted manufacturer. Then again, having a filament extruder, the printing material you’ll be using in the craft will pass your quality test, so the prints will always be up to your standards.
- Have filament when you need it. Don’t count days before delivery – your perfect 3D filament is always within reach!
Let’s look at the price of the spool of the regular black PLA filament. You won’t find a decent material cheaper than $17 per 1 kilogram. This price, apart from the raw material price, includes the cost of the manufacturing (electricity, heat, industrial workstation, employees paycheck), shipping, storage, and seller’s extra charge.
Comparing the price of the ready-made PLA with the PLA pellets, you will see an unbelievable variation of prices: 1 kilogram of the most expensive PLA granules costs $5. Thus, when you buy filament pellets instead of manufactured spools you save around $12 per kilogram.
Of course, a quality filament extruder will cost money, and you absolutely don’t need it if 3D printing is your part-time hobby. In this case, you may never pay off the cost of the equipment, and the purchase will only leave you with a hole in your pocket.
However, if 3D printing for you is something more than making models of your favorite cartoon characters, we’d recommend thinking about buying a filament extruder to fulfill your demands.
We all know how often 3D printing process becomes interrupted by different issues – from a jammed nozzle to an accidental warping. You stop the machine, fix the problem and start printing again, but what about the plastic the printer has already used?
In many 3D workshops, such wasted material is collected for the re-using needs. The concept is simple:
- Collect defected plastic
- Clean and let it dry
- Put it into the special plastic shredder
- Manufacture the filament from the plastic granules using filament extruder
Such a scheme not only saves you a sufficient amount of money but also protects nature from redundant plastic pollution. Benefiting all sides of the ecosystem.
Filament extruders, on the top of all these advantages, are a promising source of income. You can freely share it with the other people for the additional price. Cost of the granulated plastic – even summarized with the charge for your services – won’t excel the price of the spooled filament. This way you’ll have a source of the passive income, and your extruder won’t stand idly when you won’t need it.
In addition, we’ve already discussed how you can use the extruder in order to experiment with the materials. Other 3D printing fans will appreciate a close-by source of cheap qualitative filament, so your extruder will have less chance to cool down!
To buy or not to buy a 3D filament extruder
This is not your option if you’re absolutely fine with the filament you buy from the manufacturer, as well as if you turn on 3D printer once a month. Still, when printing is your primary occupation, filament extruder is an excellent investment in your printer’s well-being and your creative freedom. Defective printing material is our collective nightmare, and an efficient extruder can really change a situation with filaments for better.
Do you want to know the latest news from the 3D printing world? Do you know why PEI is one of the coolest printing materials available on the market? Or what you can do with PETG filament? Well, you’ll find all the answers in our 3devo blog. Don’t miss an opportunity to learn something cool!
You might also like the following posts:
Why are filaments so expensive and what you can do about it?
When buying filaments for your 3D printer, a common question may come across your mind – Why are these things so expensive? After all, it’s only a piece of plastic, right?
Yes, but there is more to 3D filaments than what meets the eye! We invite you to explore with us some of the factors which affect the price of a filament. We shall immerse ourselves in the basics of filaments and what it costs to get them from the manufacturer to your home. In addition, we will offer several secrets that will help you reduce the cost of filaments without sacrificing quality.
3D printer filaments are made of various polymers, which is the technical name for various ‘plastics’. Polymers are chains of repeating segments of molecules. The most common ones include ABS (a co-polymer of acrylonitrile, butylene, and styrene) and PLA (polylactic acid). We invite you to learn more about them in the following article. Never less, 3D printing may utilize almost any polymer, if it has the following properties.
It may be remolded when heated – Essential for 3D printing.
It can be “stretched out” when heated – Though it must not “leak” once it has been set.
It is durable when cooled down – This property can be enhanced or compromised based on your project.
The quality of a filament is determined by these properties. Additionally, you may require further special abilities for a specific product, such as flexibility (nylon), weather resistance (ASA), or outright strength (polycarbonate). In the graphic below, you can see which materials are the superheroes in their respective categories.
The cost of a polymer plays the main role in the overall price of the filament. Each comes from a different source and requires various techniques to prepare.
Quality of a polymer can also be reduced by impurities, which are common when it is prepared by cheaper methods. I can testify to this with my own experience. Even though I have been at first pleased to find cheap filaments on some e-commerce websites, I have always ended up with low-quality products, that leaked, cracked, smelled bad, etc.
Let’s talk about a less mentioned, yet very important part of filaments – the additives! The color of filaments alone suggests that they contain something more than just pure plastic. It is fascinating to explore the variety of enhancements that can be included in a filament and the effect that they have on its price.
The most common additive is a dye. Dyes vary wildly in quality – factors such as color, solubility, UV resistance, and toxicity can play a role in their price. This is the case especially for fluorescent dyes which glow in dark, or UV active dyes which glow under UV light.
Additives can also improve the physical properties of the product. A very important example is hardness, which can vary wildly even when we consider a single type of polymer. This is achieved by adding only small amounts of a necessary additive. But it’s by far not the only property that we can introduce!
Other common additives include flame retardants and autoxidizing agents. The small amount of additives does not impact the stability of the polymer, yet it expands the possible applications of 3D printed products. How cool is that?!
3. Processing, packaging and a niche market
Let’s take a look at a less technical topic, which is an issue of both quality and quantity. The processing of polymers into filaments is not necessarily expensive, but it requires special equipment to achieve their uniform dimensions. You may have already found that out the hard way, since cheap filaments often end up getting stuck in the printer. The use of expensive specialized equipment necessary for precise extrusion will be reflected in the price.
After extrusion, the filament is cut, packaged and sold not in bulk, but in single threads. It is necessary to wind every single filament onto a plastic spindle, which is called spooling. The spool adds to the weight quite a bit, which increases the amount of fuel required to ship them. It is also inefficient since the rolled up filaments contain a lot of air. This contributes to the price as well.
We must also account for the size of the market. This is the concept known as the rule of supply and demand. 3D printing is a fast growing, but still a niche market. This means that there aren’t many filament manufacturers, especially ones who would sell high quality products. The demand is increasing, but the production is expensive and low in volume – think of Tesla cars as another example. Thus, the manufacturers can ask for more money than for other polymer products, such as plastic spoons.
Tips – How to reduce the cost of a filament
From the reasons we have given, it may seem that compromising on the price of a filament will most likely result in a bitter surprise – and you would be right! Still, there are ways to get around this. Here are is a brief overview of the top 5 tips to lower 3D printing costs.
- Buying in bulk is always cheaper than by single spools. You may buy multicolor sets, or simply order a wholesale package of filaments.
- Read reviews, recommendations and compare prices. Thanks to the internet, we have all the information at our disposal!
- Make sure to plan your project thoroughly. Not only that you will not overpay for unnecessarily expensive polymers, but you will end up using less.
- Consider extruding your own 3D filaments from granulates. As seen in the table below, filaments are far more expensive than granulate they are made from.
- Recycle your products. This requires specialized equipment that reduces plastic products to granulate.
|Material||Filament price/USD per kg||Granulate price/USD per kg|
( Comparison of popular filament and granulate prices can be found here )
Material, additives and production costs all add up to the final market value. But don’t worry; we have also given you several ways to reduce the cost of your 3D printing operation! Still, there is so much more to 3D printing! Be sure to check out further articles on our blog to learn more about specific types of filaments, extruders and recycling.
Don’t forget to share this post!
You might also like the following posts:
Meet the brand-new Precision and Composer series
These past few months have been exciting here at 3devo. We looked into everything that made our filament makers a success, and everything that could make them better. Now we’re proud to announce two new-and-improved series of products. Here’s a first look at the Precision Series and Composer Series filament makers. These latest devices make working with materials simpler than ever, offering even more possibilities in manufacturing and innovation.
Focused on better results
Our NEXT filament maker found numerous amounts of applications in industries ranging from education and research to manufacturing and aerospace. They brought users a variety of benefits including shorter lead times, reduced material waste, and increased control over material making. Also, they facilitated material research and customization, while introducing the precision of industrial filament making to desktop-based setups.
However, we realized that our filament makers could serve these purposes even better – if they focused on specific requirements. Our new Precision and Composer Series filament makers are specialized, result-oriented machines aimed at simplifying the material making process. Each in a different way.
The Precision Series filament maker
The Precision series enables mass production of 3D printing filament with improved speeds and diameter accuracy. With a high-flow extruder screw, this allows filament to be produced at high speeds while also maintaining diameter precision.
The Composer Series filament maker
The Composer series targets material mixing and experimentation, allowing innovators to develop custom filament from a wide variety of polymers and additives. With a mixing screw, this delivers quality material mixing and compounding.
Both series have two additional models that address material-specific requirements. The Precision 350 and the Composer 350 can handle temperatures up to 350°C, allowing them to comfortably process polymers including PLA, ABS, PC, PS, PETG, TPU, TPE, PPS, PA (6,12,66) along with others. The Precision 450 and the Composer 450 have higher temperature tolerances (up to 450°C), which means they can additionally process high-performance polymers like PAEK, PSU, PTFE, PVDF and more.
Find out more about choosing the perfect 3devo filament maker.
It’s what’s inside that counts
Our new filament makers contain numerous upgrades and improvements to deliver even better results. Here is what we improved:
Every Precision and Composer model has an improved extruder system with an innovative ‘swappable’ design. We’ve designed the entire extruder system – extruder screw, barrel, die-head, motor and heaters – as an independent, removable unit to simplify cleaning, repair and maintenance. Disassembling and reattaching this unit is a quick and simple process that users can now manage on their own.
Advanced heating system
Efficient temperature handling is central to high-quality filament extrusion. To this end, we’ve upgraded the heating system. All Precision and Composer filament makers now contain ceramic band heaters with 4 controllable heating zones. Each heater is handcrafted in-house to ensure top-of-the-line quality. Giving you complete control over the extrusion process. To further improve filament quality, all machines have hoppers with closeable caps to prevent material contamination.
In addition to their enhanced design and build, our new-generation filament makers have upgraded software that improves their thermal stability by up to 35%.
Stay in the loop
We’re also in the works of developing a web app with cloud access, which will enable active data logging of extrusion tests. But that is a topic for a future post, so stay tuned! In the meantime, learn more about our Precision and Composer series here.
Recycling. A word often related to large companies receiving tons and tons of paper or plastic in an effort to reduce our carbon footprint. However if we look at plastic bottles for instance, humans buy a million plastic bottles per minute, and 91% of all plastic is not recycled. This article is going to cover what makes plastic recycling so important, how to recycle PET and the future of recycling in 3D printing.
What is PET Recycling?
Focusing on plastic bottles here, they have one huge advantage – unlimited recycling potential. PET is one of the few polymers that can be recycled into the same form over and over again. Think of it as a closed-loop recycling solution.
Recycled PET, or rPET, can be used to make many new products. This can range from clothing, automotive parts, packaging as well as bottles for food/non-food products. Depending on the application required, rPET will be blended with the original PET.
What Are The Uses of Recycled PET (rPET)?
As mentioned above, rPET has many great uses, which includes:
- Food containers
- Polyester carpet fiber
- Fabric for T-shirts
- Athletic shoes
- Luggage and upholstery
- Sweaters and fiberfill for sleeping bags and winter coats
- Industrial strapping
- Sheet and film
- Automotive parts
- New PET containers
Using rPET in place of the normal or virgin PET has substantial environmental impacts as well as reducing overall energy consumption.
Creating Our Own Filament from Plastic Bottles
Now that we’ve covered the background of recycling PET, how exactly does one go about doing the actual recycling? The one method is simply going to your local recycling company and dumping your plastic waste there, or having it picked up at home if that company provides a pick-up functionality. The other method though is a bit more rewarding – doing it yourself.
We wanted to test of normal plastic bottles can be turned into 3D printing filament. The following is a quick summary of our tests to turn around 30 bottles into filament.
- Water bottles were collected, cleaned (properly) and any external caps or seals were also removed
- The bottles were then vacuum sealed and heated to reduce their size
- Once cooled the bottles were cut into smaller chunks with a saw and a pair of scissors
- After that, the pieces were shredded into tiny pieces using our SHR3D IT
- The pieces were then dried at a temperature of 160°C for 4 hours
- The PET was then fed into our Next filament extruder
- After multiple tests at different nozzle diameters and temperatures, our team ended up with a great result of PET filament
Click for the complete test and the different results.
The Future of Plastic Recycling in 3D Printing
The biggest issue that faces 3D printing recycled filament – dirt. With the above experiment, just cleaning those bottles took a great deal of effort. Now imagine doing it with tons of plastic, often coming from dumps that have been contaminated all forms of impurities.
Also, one has to take note that different types of plastic produce different types of filament. High-density polyethylene — shampoo bottles, for example — are relatively easy to convert into filament, but it’s difficult to print with because it shrinks more than other plastics as it cools. On the other hand, PET, prints well but is brittle, making it difficult to spool as filament.
Recently, we saw the US Department of Defense (DoD) is exploring 3D printing feedstock made from plastic containers that have been left on the battlefield, which can hopefully be reproduced in other government sectors. There’s also Ethical Filament, a company focused on promoting the concept of recycling to produce ethical 3D printing filament that is sold to improve the livelihoods of waste pickers and their communities worldwide. Then there’s the Perpetual Plastic Project (PPP), which is an installation which can directly recycle old plastic drinking cups into 3D printing gadgets as well as other plastic products if needed.
While there is more and more aware of using recycled filament for 3D printing, we still have a long way to go. Hopefully, with the rise in 3D printing over the last few years, more emphasis is being placed on plastic recycling.