Gartner suggests that there will be 6.7 million 3D printers sold by the year 2020. Assuming that 50% of these printers are desktop, material extrusion (FFF) 3D printers, and each printer uses 1 kilogram of filament per month, it can be predicted that 36 million kilograms of plastic will be used and therefore need to be extracted from natural resources in order to meet the growing demands of 3D printing.
PLA (polylactic acid) is by far the most comment filament material – it is plant-based (not fossil-based) and so is generally more environmentally friendly than other polymers. However, bioplastics compete for land with food crops and biofuels and so without proper management, the demand for 3D printing filament could challenge food and energy security in the near future. Furthermore, marketers may use words such as ‘biodegradable’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ to describe PLA, however it not that straightforward. In landfill, PLA can take hundreds of years to break down naturally. Some say PLA is ‘compostable’… well; the truth is that you’d need access to an industrial, anaerobic digester – of which there are only a handful in the UK. What about recycling PLA? Technically feasible, yes, but not practical. If PLA is sent to recycling centres, it can contaminate other waste streams, such as PET, thus making the recycled products unsalable.
The solution? Making 3D printer filament extrusion more efficient. Polymer extrusion (and manufacturing processes in general) creates waste – such as failed runs, off cuts and excess material. At Filamentive, we partner with expert polymer extrusion firms – those that make fishing lines, fencing wire and of course 3D printing filament. We ensure only homogeneous waste is used to be remanufactured into (post-industrial/pre-consumer) recycled PLA filament.
One of our biggest challenges as a planet is to find new uses for abundant waste polymers. ABS and PET are common plastics, which are subsequently discarded. Both polymers make excellent 3D printer filaments, however sadly most filament still originates from virgin sources. As a company, we find this unacceptable and feel it is our duty to ensure we can use recycled polymers wherever possible. We have partnered with local recycled centres that produce the best quality, recycled pellets for use as feedstock for Filamentive recycled ABS filament and recycled PETG filament.
All feedstock streams are meticulously checked to ensure homogeneity. During extrusion, filament is measured by lasers from 2-axes, with an alarm bell sounding if the diameter falls outside our high standards. Filament is then wound onto bulk spools for visual inspection before it is put onto the individual spools to be packaged. Each batch produced undergoes a rigorous 3D printing test; if we’re not happy with the print quality then it won’t leave the factory, simple as.
The result is up to 90% recycled filament, free of foreign debris, ±0.05mm diameter tolerances and a minimum of 95% roundness. We don’t just stop at the filament itself – we also use 100% recycled plastic spools as well as recyclable cardboard packaging. Sustainability is key to our business model and we continue to reduce our environment impact with new products and initiatives, including the return of empty spools as part of our extended producer responsibility.
We have had tremendous feedback from many 3D printing experts, and we are ready to form effective partnerships worldwide. We sell direct to customers on our website but we also provide discounts for education, 3D hubs and we are particularly interested in growing our global reseller network.
If interesting in ordering, please use code 3dprintcom for 15% off your first order! We also welcome you to ‘try before you buy’ by requested a FREE sample of either our recycled PLA, recycled ABS or recycled PETG filament.
Discuss in the Filamentive forum at 3DPB.com.
Ravi Toor is the Founder and Director of Filamentive