Introduction: Make New Filament From Old 3D-prints (Recycling)

About: 3D Hubs is the world’s largest network of local 3D printing services.

3D printing has been branded as a way to reduce the impact we have on our environment. However, most of the time we’re all too much familiar with a pile of failed prints, that negatively affect the environment surrounding us.

Here at 3D Hubs we want to stop this waste and change the way we produce things. That’s why at 3D Hubs we’ve started the #REMAKE3D campaign to create awareness of the possibilities that are recently popping up to recycle these old prints. So now after you collected your old 3D-prints, let’s look at what to do next.

Step 1: Separate the Old Prints

After you collected your old prints, it is important to separate the different materials. So ABS goes with ABS and PLA with PLA.

If you don’t do this precisely this will result in issues, both extruding and printing, because for instance the melting temperature for both materials is different.

Step 2: Shred the Old Prints

You need something that can tear the prints apart. For instance a Filamaker shredder is perfect or, just a simple office shredder might work. Another possibility is to crush the prints by placing them in a bag/towel and hitting them with a hammer.

Step 3: Setup Your Extrusion Lab

Next, it’s time for the real deal, setting up the extrusion process. There’s a couple of simple tips:

- Make sure you get some kind of filament extruder

- Place the extruder in a stable position

- Make sure the filament can flow out of the nozzle consistently. You can for instance use a winding system or just simply let it fall to the ground. Some setups run the filament through water to cool it. This can work well but requires that the filament is dried afterwards as well. What also works to cool the filament is using a fan.

Step 4: Extrude the Filament

Feed your waste into the extruder and, according to the extruder you own, use its controls to fine-tune the diameter of the filament. For the Filabot, you can, for instance, only control the temperature. Set it higher to increase the flow rate of the filament. This also increases the stretching of the filament however which decreases the diameter. Naturally decreasing the temperature has the opposite effect.

Generally good temperatures for extruding shredded old prints are:

PLA: 140C-170C

ABS: 170C-200C

But this of course depends on many factors so this very well might be different for different situations.

Step 5: Spool It and Use It

If you didn’t spool it already then now is the time to fetch a spool and either manually wind it onto the spool or use a drill to spin the spool until all of your filament is on it.