Material from post-production parts and scrap from the 3D printing process can be reused in Large Format Additive Manufacturing (LFAM) or processes such as injection molding or extrusion, at amounts up to 100 percent, a report said.
Sabic, a global leader in the chemical industry, and Local Motors, a next-generation vehicle manufacturer, completed a joint study on the feasibility of recycling scrap thermoplastic parts and shavings from the 3D printing process.
The study explored more sustainable alternatives to landfilling large, printed parts in anticipation of wider adoption of LFAM. It included analyzing the printability and mechanical properties of Sabic’s LNP THERMOCOMP AM reinforced compound, used by Local Motors, after being printed, reclaimed, ground and reprocessed into pellet form.
“As adoption of large format additive manufacturing accelerates, it is essential to find sustainable alternatives to landfilling large, printed parts,” said Walter Thompson, senior applications development engineer, Sabic. “Sabic and Local Motors have investigated the practicality of using mechanically ground scrap material and end of life parts generated from LFAM. Our study showed great potential for reusing these materials and marks a first step in supporting reuse within the value chain.”
“Building next-generation vehicles means embracing next-generation manufacturing processes,” said Johnny Scotello, Director of Technical Product at Local Motors. “We’re proud to work with Sabic in making large format additive manufacturing more sustainable. Bringing value to scrap or end-of-life parts is a difficult challenge, but the results of this study point to a bright future for sustainable, circular products.”
Currently, no established value chain exists for reclaiming post-production LFAM parts and scrap. This complex sequence of steps includes managing the logistics of locating, collecting and transporting large parts to a facility capable of cleaning, cutting, regrinding and repurposing the material.
Another challenge of reusing LFAM materials is potential degradation from multiple heat cycles (grinding, re-pelletizing, re-compounding, etc.). Each step adds to the cumulative heat history, which tends to break down the polymer chains and reduce fiber length and can affect performance. These factors should be considered when identifying opportunities for material reuse.
This study highlights the reusability of post-industrial LFAM shavings and parts. Both post-industrial and post-consumer scrap materials offer potential for reuse; however, existing gaps in the recycling value chain need to be filled before this process can be viable. A large collective effort by the LFAM community, including resin manufacturers, converters, 3D printers and recyclers, is needed to devise an economical method of collecting scrap and converting it to a reusable form.
Conducting this study with Local Motors and presenting these results are Sabic’s first steps in finding a circular solution for the LFAM industry. The company will soon complete a report containing detailed data from the study, a Sabic statement said.
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