It’s often said that 3D printing is an expensive hobby to get into, but the majority of the long-term costs come from buying replacement filament. What if there was a way to reduce these costs and also reduce your environmental impact? Well, guess what? There is, and it’s easier than you might think.
Now, for the time being, there is a decent upfront cost. However, by recycling old filament, you’ll be able to reclaim any materials used in prints that didn’t come out just right. Think about how much filament you’ve wasted since you began. How much money could you have saved?
Before you can begin reclaiming old materials, you first need two pieces of equipment: a shredder and an extruder (this is different from the one on your 3D printer). Essentially, you feed your old print into the shredder, which, as you might expect, shreds it. Then, once you have your shards, these are fed into the extruder, which heats and shapes them into something you can actually use.
So what kind of upfront costs can you expect? Well, a cheap plastic shredder costs around $250 and a basic extruder is around $300. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even make your own. These DIY solutions cost less but are fairly labor-intensive to create. So, what should you know before recycling filament?
Rules For Recycling Filament
There are a few golden rules you must follow in order to produce usable filament. First and foremost, make sure you only shred one type of material at a time. Each filament type has different characteristics like melting temperature and viscosity. In fact, even combining different brands of the same material can have unexpected results.
By using only one type of filament, you reduce the chance of creating unstable materials that fall apart when printing. That’s not all, though: you should also be aware that the recycled filament might have a different diameter. Really, this is all down to which type of extruder you buy.
If you find your new materials to be slightly larger or smaller, you’ll likely need to swap out your printer’s extruder for one that will accept the new filament. It’s crucial that you test each batch for quality though, as outlined in the graphic below.
Finally, in order to prolong the life of your shredder, don’t just throw large objects into it. Try breaking them down first – a hammer usually works perfectly. If you find the plastic chunks are still too large, there’s no shame in putting them through a second time.
While it might seem like a lot of work, recycling filament is a far more economical way to print in the long term. This is the main advantage 3D printing has over other kinds of manufacturing; if you mess up during carpentry work, your wood is likely useless. Not so with the filament.
By following our instructions, you can achieve the impossible – creating high-quality models with almost zero waste and minimal impact on the environment. If that’s not a sign that this technology is the way forward, we don’t know what is.