3d-Printer Fails: Avoiding The Landfill

3d-Printer Fails: Avoiding The Landfill

Last month, I wrote about some of my library’s struggles to keep our 3d-printing program going after our librarian expert left us. I was focused mainly on the workflow and staff time involved in the 3d-printing program, in that post. Today, I thought I’d talk a bit about another issue that’s been bothering me: All the wasted plastic from our failed 3d prints.

Above, you can see several attempts at a single object. We’ve been having to do that many attempts on a lot of objects, lately. For the print in that photo, we had problems with the print coming loose before it was finished; the printer ceasing to extrude even though it continued to move as though printing; and in one case, the print turning into spaghetti instead of a reasonable object. On other prints, we also face failure due to the print warping, filament getting tangled, or any number of other things.

In short: There are a *lot* of failed prints. We have a cardboard box full of malformed and unfinished plastic objects, plus the rafts that print underneath even successful objects to keep them from sticking to the build plate. My library doesn’t currently have any way to recycle them; they can’t go into mainstream recycling, I’m told. It hurts the piece of my soul that’s concerned with not murdering the planet.

Today, I thought I’d do a little digging and see if there are any options for those of us who are experimenting (and sometimes failing!) with 3d printing, but don’t want to send our failed prints to a landfill. Here’s what I’ve found out:

  1. The biggest name in this area seems to be Filabot. Filabot offers products including their Reclaimer and a few variations on their filament maker. I have no experience with these myself, but the ability to grind up your prints and then extrude the ground-up plastic into new filament would be super exciting.Adafruit’s blog post about Filabot has a lot of interesting links, if you want to read more.
  2. Filabot also offers failed-print recycling if you mail the failed prints to them. It’s free, other than the cost of postage. You don’t get anything in return for your materials other than the satisfaction of knowing you’re keeping those failed prints out of a landfill.
  3. It may be worth your while to keep an eye on Kickstarter. Filabot was a Kickstarter project a while back, and there’s another project with a few days left on it as this post goes to press: The Cruncher. There’s at least one filament extruder showing up in my Kickstarter searches, too.
  4. We’re makers. We *could* always get creative! I’ve been toying with the idea of using some of the pieces to put together a mosaic for the blank space on my office wall. I bet that if you put out a box full of rafts and failed prints, a group of kids or other makers could find all kinds of uses for them.

There are also makers getting into related issues that may prevent some of these failed prints in the first place. One example is the group at MIT that’s come up with a system that will let your printer scan what’s already on the build plate and print on top of it. That could save us all a good many failed prints. So cool!

Does anyone out there have a solution you’d like to share for how you deal with your failed prints?


This post was updated on 3/28/2015 to correct the link to my previous 3D-printing post.

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