Mar. 2, 2015 | By Kira

InnoCircle, a joint project between Dutch filament manufacturer Innofil3D and CiorC, is the latest development in the sustainable 3D printing market. The companies have created a line of unique monofilaments made from recycled ABS car parts and PET water bottles that complete two separate sustainability ‘loops’ within the plastic product manufacturing industries, thereby reducing waste and contributing to a more ecologically-friendly environment.

It’s no secret that humans are producing and discarding waste at a dangerous rate. Everything from our food packaging to electronics is seen as increasingly cheap and disposable; but just because we stop thinking about that water bottle as soon as it’s hit the trashcan doesn’t mean it has disappeared. On the contrary, our oceans and landfills are becoming more and more toxic, filled to the brim with harmful chemicals that can take years, even centuries to decompose, killing animals, plants and entire ecosystems in the process.

Photo by Jan Willem Slijkoord of the visible waste and plastic litter around the streets of Amsterdam

Our growing dependence on technology in this case is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, advanced industrial manufacturing and mechanical processes allow us to produce more plastic and plastic-based products at faster and faster rates, leading to more consumption and more waste. On the other hand, there is a growing movement of scientists and engineers who are putting technological advancements to use, developing techniques and products that can actually reduce waste and our negative impact on the environment.

Jan Willem Slijkoord, the owner of CiorC, is part of the latter movement, and believes that InnoCircle’s line of recycled monofilaments can significantly improve the sustainability opportunities for the 3D printing community.

Slijkoord began by telling about two plastic product chains (one dealing with ABS, and the other with PET) and how InnoCircle can turn them into ‘closed loops.’ The first loop has to do with oil-based ABS plastics originated from old, disposed-of passenger cars. “In the Netherlands only, where I live, we dispose of 230,000 cars annually,” he told us. “An average passenger car weighs 1022 KG and delivers about 70 KG polymers after recycling containing mainly PP, PE, nylon and ABS. I estimate that every car contains about 15 KG ABS, originated form interior car parts, trim components, bumper bars, etc. So this means that about 3450 tons of ABS is recycled from car parts in the Netherlands annually.”

As you can probably imagine, 3450 tons is a lot of plastic that is simply going to waste. Yet it doesn’t have to be so. Plastic parts from disposed cars can be shredded, washed and separated, then used for making monofilament, which in turn can create 3D printed objects—which as we all know, can range from technical parts to beautiful works of art. An added benefit of re-using the plastic from old cars is that the material itself is safe and pure, being compliant with Europe’s REACH legislation. “In contradiction to the housings of electronic equipment, this recycled ABS does not contain hazardous flame retardants,” explains Slijkoord. “The material is fully REACH compliant. The European REACH legislation addresses the production and use of chemical substances, and their potential impacts on both human health and the environment.”

He continued: “By having the REACH certificate, InnoCircle meets the latest REACH EU regulations and intends to offer responsible filaments. In addition, we have done extensive research to the mechanical and printing properties. The InnoCircle recycled ABS filaments print well and show good mechanical performance. Finally, once you decide to dispose your own printed product, this can be recycled too.” The cycle is thus complete: cars are recycled into filament, which is used to create 3D printed objects, which can in turn be recycled back into filaments to create more new objects, all while producing no extraneous waste.

The second loop concerns PET plastics derived from water bottles. Water bottles are one of the biggest epidemics when it comes to human waste—not only are they harmful for the environment, but they are completely unnecessary! Just think of how much could be saved if every person carried a re-usable bottle instead of buying endless plastic ones and then tossing them on the street when done. According to Slijkoord’s research, the global consumption for PET packaging was estimated to be 15.4 million tons, of which 80% (12.5 million tons) came from water bottles. That is a huge number. Although people are becoming more and more aware of this problem and studies have shown that PET recycling is becoming increasingly popular and effective, clearly, there is still lots to be done.

InnoCircle’s contribution in this area is a unique transparent filament based on more than 50 wt% recycled PET that is also food-safe. “In addition, the material can remain transparent, even when the cooling rate after printing is sufficiently high,” Slijkoord told us. “CiroC and Innofil3D enable makers to print any product based on a responsible and more sustainable InnoCircle recycled PET filament.”

CiorC and Innofil3D will release their innovative, reycled filaments to the market soon, however prices have not yet been set. The ABS filament will come in black while PET is only available in clear; both are available in 2.85mm and 1.75 on 0.5-1 KG spools. For more pre-launch information and a chance to see the ABS and PET filaments in person, you can check out the RapidPro Exhibition in Veldhoven, the Netherlands between March 3-5, 2015.

Although it will take more than one company to turn the rate of plastic waste and threat of global warming around, the positive, sustainable solutions and responsible opportunities afforded by 3D printing technology is a very welcome movement that we hope will being to penetrate various industries and manufacturing sectors.



Posted in 3D Printing Materials


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