AMS 2024

What to Do with Solvent Waste from Finishing Your 3D Prints? Recycle it with the Sidewinder!

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logo2From cradle to grave. From the minute you purchase a finishing solvent, that’s exactly the type of relationship you two are going to have.

It sounds dramatic, but it’s important to keep in mind that from the minute you leave the checkout line, hazardous materials become your total responsibility. This may not have been a big consideration when you purchased that desktop printer and went to town making a slew of first-time figurines and smartphone cases. Perhaps you were working with ABS though and eventually wanted to smooth out those ridges and hard edges.

3D printing is one part of innovating—but often finishing is a whole new hobby in itself, requiring a cabinet full of solvents; after all, this is a lot of fun and you want everything at your disposal. And there’s your key word, ultimately: disposal. What happens when we get to the ‘grave’ phase? This might be until death do you two part, but you can’t just dump that tub full of chemicals in the back yard, flush it down the loo, or leave it for the trash pickup, so where does it go?

UntitledKeeping in mind that waste must be disposed of in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations, and keeping mind that it is costly—as well as the fact that not following rules can lead to jail time even—recycling certainly sounds like a much less stressful alternative all around.

Whether you are printing with plastic filaments like ABS or PLA–or printing with resin–and using finishing solvents on all of them, Mike Lawson, founder of Sidewinder, has made a recycling device well worth checking out.

“The Sidewinder solvent distillation unit reduces the volume of hazardous materials on-site and all but eliminates the need to transport liquid hazardous waste on our streets and highways,” states Lawson.

The SideWinder Model M-2, not just restricted to hazardous materials you might be using in 3D printing, is meant to eliminate the worry of where to take waste.

“Whether you know it as an acetone recycler, a xylene reclaimer, a solvent distillation unit, a solvent recovery system, a lacquer thinner recycler, an alcohol recycler, an MEK reclaimer or a solvent recovery system, most know it as Sidewinder.”

Referring to this as the best employee you’ll ever have, Lawson also makes the Sidewinder sound like one of the easiest machines you’ll ever operate. Load, latch, and push a button. Soon, you are rewarded with recycled and ‘crystal clear’ solvent that you can use again and again. You are saving money and saving the planet—all while solving those pesky compliance issues that could indeed become problematic if not dealt with—and many may be surprised to learn that this encompasses all solvents, thinners, and reductors. You have two options: have it hauled away, or recycle.

The Sidewinder should be right up your alley if you use five to seventy gallons per week of solvents or thinners, generally described as:

  • Commercial paints and finishes
  • Industrial and government paints, coatings, and finishes
  • Automotive paints and finishes

A small batch distiller, the Sidewinder allows for a five-gallon metal bucket of waste to be placed inside its operating chamber where it then vaporizes the solvents, rendering them clean and re-usable. Although different variables are involved such as what solvents you are recycling and how dirty they are—along with humidity and barometric pressure—it should usually involve maybe a couple of hours to heat up, and then count on a gallon an hour.

Lawson states that it is meant to process 50 gallons a week during a five-day workweek. The Sidewinder is self-monitoring in terms of temperature and also automatically turns itself off when recycling is complete, and according to Lawson, the resulting solvent is indeed as good as new.

“If a user processes fifty gallons a week and his expense to buy plus legal disposal is a conservative five dollars a gallon, the Sidewinder will pay for itself in 14-15 weeks,” states Lawson. “If time is a problem, you need more units to put more money back in your pocket.”

UntitledIt basically operates like a pressure cooker, and is built to those standards. Vapors expand in the chamber, displacing air, and then fall through a refrigerated heat exchanger. After that, they condense and flow into the clean solvent receptacle. Waste stays behind in the cooking bucket. You can also use specific Sidewinder processing bags which fit into the buckets like liners.

Other features:

  • UL Listed – and is actually the first UL listed solvent recycler in the world
  • Meets UL 2208 – the standard for solvent distillation units in the US
  • UL 2208 compliant for use in ordinary non-hazardous locations
  • Uses refrigeration to condense
  • No water hookups are required
  • Simple maintenance with basic cleaning required

It’s important to note that this ‘cooker’ is meant only for commercial and industrial use by trained personnel. You never want to process unidentified compounds or anything containing acid. Do not process items containing nitrocellulose or cellulose nitrate. Always keep in mind that caution handling of hazardous waste is of utmost importance. You should find the Sidewinder to be simple and hassle free, but also enjoy knowing that it comes with a one-year warranty. Is this a device you are interested in trying? Discuss in the Sidewinder 3D Solvent Recycler forum over at


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