While 3D printing is taking the world by storm, propelling us into a new technological age with so many exciting and new options — not to mention a revolution in manufacturing — we still have the environment to consider. While we hear the words affordable, innovative, progressive, and amazing tossed out into the headlines so often in connection with 3D printing and all it encompasses, it becomes easy to see only the positives. Sometimes it’s impossible to overlook the amount of filament waste piled in the trash, however.
One of the glaring differences between PLA and ABS filament traditionally has been that while one is more environmentally friendly, the other is one most of us might prefer to use — but with less or no guilt, please. It’s a concern when you are shopping for a new 3D printer, and if you already have one, you may be limited as to what material you are able to use. While everyone is having so much fun with 3D printing and all the opportunity and excitement it offers, we don’t really want to have to explore a dark side.
We should though consider the amount of energy that 3D printers have the ability to consume, which can be substantial, especially in an industrial scenario. And then there are the fumes, opening up the issue of toxicity and need for ventilation. 3D printers produce emissions, as does PLA filament, but ABS presents exponential emission issues — not to mention issues regarding food safety if items like cups or forks and spoons are created using it.
Headquartered in Massachusetts, Sierra Resins worked with California-based 3D Printlife to create a product which may change some of these dilemmas with Enviro Bio-Filament, which is the first environmentally friendly ABS filament on the market. Manufactured by NETCO Extruded Plastics of Hudson, MA, Enviro was formulated to be as friendly to the environment as PLA, as it is made of material that is “targeted and consumed by bacteria in landfills.”
The elementary environmental differences between PLA and ABS are obvious, as PLA is made from vegetable waste like corn. It’s known to be a ‘green’ material, and you can feel good about yourself when you throw all your filament waste in the recycling bin. ABS is petroleum-based, and therein lies the problem, which Enviro is tackling by giving ABS the ability to break down in a landfill — without compromising all the qualities that invite 3D printing enthusiasts to use it for in the first place.
“We are excited to bring an ABS bio-filament to our customers and 3D printing enthusiasts,” says Buzz Baldwin, Co-founder and COO of 3D Printlife.
Presented this week at 2015 International CES, the creators of the bio-filament, retailing at $59.99 per 1 kg spool, point out that the bio-components they have created are added during the bio-filament extrusion process. The resulting product that will be able to break down is meant to ‘bridge the gap’ between the differences in ABS and PLA filament. Users choose one or the other filament for a variety of reasons such as flexibility and cracking issues, heat tolerance issues, adhesion issues, and more, with the decision often riding on the specific 3D printer and/or specific project.
Information from 3D Printlife and Sierra Resins states that they are testing Enviro under ASTM D5511, which is the “Standard Method for Determining Anaerobic Biode-gradation of Plastic Materials Under High-Solids Anaerobic-Digestion Conditions.” They will provide data upon test results. Also, Enviro is not compostable as measured by ASTM D6400, “Standard Specification for Labeling of Plastics Designed to be Aerobically Composted in Municipal or Industrial Facilities.”
What are your thoughts on using traditional ABS or PLA filament? Is Enviro a product you are interested in using? Share with us in the Enviro forum over at 3DPB.com.
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