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3D printing is changing the outlook of contemporary life and the technology is being adopted by both hobbyists and experts alike. Opening up new innovative potential possibilities, individuals involved with 3D printing are making home utensils, show-stopping modern art, parts for industrial equipment, prosthetics and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. It’s getting utilised in the assembly line, to make medical equipment, and the automotive industry. Obviously, there is a burgeoning concern about the renew-ability and sustainability of the crude materials. So it’s important to find a way to initiate the management of waste material.

Modern day 3D printers adopt a layered strategy to printing objects. They set down layer after layer of material with unconditional accuracy to make precisely crafted products and prototypes. There are numerous kinds of 3D printers:

  1. Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) is a manufacturing process that uses additive manufacturing for modeling and prototyping.
  2. Poly-jet Photo-polymer creates realistic prototypes.
  3. Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) uses additive manufacturing process with lasers.
  4. Stereolithography (SLA) uses photopolymerization process.

It’s no secret, 3D printing produces a great deal of waste. Making new items requires experiencing multiple iteration cycles and each cycle can produce unnecessary prints. Tossing those prints out can cause major environmental degradation. The ideal scenario would involve producing a 3D machine that recycles any plastic you throw into it and turns it into a biodegradable compound that can simply be discarded out the window when you decided to upgrade. There are a couple of projects that have popped up to produce machines that can essentially do the same thing.

The fundamental objective of additive manufacturing by and large, has been tied in with creating lesser wastage than different forms of manufacturing and ensuring production remains low cost. Nonetheless, it is no surprise that 3D printing too in the end prompts at least some type of wastage. But what happens to prints that don’t make the final cut? Or prints with defects in them or even prints that are just made to test the machine’s capabilities.

All things considered, this depends entirely on the material utilized. Materials like PLA for instance can be melted down and reused. Matter of fact, there are two or three organisations that are actively attempting to diminish wastage and create more practical techniques for recycling unused material.

Fungus: The plastic of the future?

A craftsman from The Netherlands, Eric Klarenbeek, has gone above and beyond when it comes to reusing plastics, or utilizing bioplastic filament. He has concocted a creative, and exceptionally artistic strategy for 3D printing with the naturally growing compound, fungus. The procedure utilised by the 35-year-old craftsman is quite astounding. Using ground up straw he implants it with Mycelium fungus as the fungus is known for favouring straw, thus the reason for its use. He utilises this material as sort of a filament within a large 3D printer. The printer works like some other FDM printer, gradually extruding the straw and mycelium blend, layer by layer, until the desired product is made. Contradictory to conventional FDM printers, there is no requirement for heat. Rather than liquefying plastics, Klarenbeek depends on nature to do its work. Once an object is printed out utilising his mixture, he soaks it in water, and gives it a chance to sit for two or three days. Gradually the mycelium growth takes hold and as it develops, replaces the water, intertwining with the straw blend. The final product is a strong structure which is extremely light in weight, sort of like the consistency of a wine cork.

Although we may not be seeing houses made using straw and mushrooms at any point in the near future, the technique utilised here is surely one that is quite alluring. Since the printed straw does not require heat while extruded, it spares significantly on energy costs. What’s more, when the printed object is no longer required, it very well may be composted, and broken down in somebody’s garden.

Perpetual Plastic Project: A solution to after-party cleanups?

Another organization that goes by the name of the Perpetual Plastic Project aims to recycle materials like red solo cups and other objects that you would most likely discard at a music concert. The Perpetual Plastic Project is an intuitive recycling establishment for young and old where plastic waste is reused on the spot and turned into new items by 3D-printers. The process consist of 4 steps:

  1. Cleaning & Dyeing the waste plastic.
  2. Shredding the plastic into small pieces.
  3. Extruding the plastic into 3d-printer filament.
  4. 3D-printing of a new product based on a 3D model.

The Protocycler: Recycling old 3D filaments never looked this good.

ReDeTec is a Toronto-based startup that is putting forth an effective method to reuse and re-make their own 3D printing filament at home. Initially propelled through an Indiegogo crowdfunding effort in 2014 (which raised 146% of its $50K objective).

Obviously, purchasing filaments produced using recycled materials is a decent answer for your environmental concerns, however maybe less so for your financial ones. That’s where ReDeTec comes in with its ProtoCycler which incorporates a built-in grinder, diameter input, and automatic spooling. All you have to do is collect the old filaments, drop it into the grinder, feed it into the main machine and watch it work its magic. ReDeTec claims by recycling your old 3D prints or using virgin plastic pellets to make spools you will reduce your 3D printing costs by around 80%.

Protoprint: A homegrown company with a cause.

Closer to home, we have the social enterprise Protoprint that aims to provide waste pickers in urban India with the mechanics and technology required to produce prime, competitive, morally sourced filaments for 3D printers from rubbish and discarded plastic that they gather. Protoprint is a social enterprise that was established by environmental engineer Sidhant Pai and his parents in 2012 to address poor work conditions and accelerating pollution rate levels, anchored an association with SWaCH to change high-density polyethylene (HDPE)- based items, for example, plastic containers into filament for 3D printers.The organisation collaborates with waste picker cooperatives, sets up filament labs at landfills, and trains waste pickers at the sites to utilise low cost technology to examine, sift through, shred and extrude the plastic into 3D printer filament. SWaCH, short for Solid Waste Collection and Handling, is a cooperative formed by waste pickers and labourers at a waste disposal site in the city of Pune, India. Workers at SWaCH provide Protoprint with the vital waste material which Pai and his team then use to make filaments.


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