Sometimes you just can’t get your 3D prints to work. There's too much stringing. There's not enough supports. Salmon skin!
When you finally get your print to come out perfectly, you’re left with a huge pile of failed prints, and wasted filament. Naturally, you have just one question; “what the heck am I gonna do with all of this?”.
You could just throw them all in the trash, but nowadays we know better - and should be more environmentally conscious. If you don't want a landfill loaded with your failed 3D prints, recycling is your best bet. But how do you do that? These aren't plastic bottles.
Turns out there's a number of ways to start recycling your failed 3D prints and all those extra bits of filament you have lying around. Here’s a few examples to get you clearing that clutter.
Use a 3D Print Recycling Service
This may seem like the most obvious, and perhaps only, option there is; take your leftover 3D prints to your local recycling facility. Sadly it’s not that simple.
Even with regular use items like bottles and microwavable meals there are some plastics that regular plants and recycling firms cannot recycle. So some of the things that you throw in the recycling bin will still end up in a landfill.
The materials we use to 3D print are a lot more complex than these household items, so even with the best intentions, simply throwing them in the recycling bin isn't going to make much of a difference.
ABS, for example, can produce some pretty toxic fumes if you try and recycle it, so to landfill it will go. Even PLA, which isn't nearly as lethal, will be refused by many recycling companies. If you want to take some of your failed 3D prints down, make sure you check what they can and can’t take beforehand.
Recycling isn’t a complete no-go. There are some specialist companies like Filabot or Replay3D which offer services to take your failed 3D prints and scrapes away to recycle. Just buy one of their boxes, chuck them all in and voilà, no more mess. You just kept to your commitment of environmental sustainability.
Remix Your Failed 3D Prints
If you're uploading your 3D designs or remixing from MyMiniFactory, you're probably a pretty creative individual.
So you would probably like a more inventive recycling solution than chucking away your failed 3D prints. Perhaps a solution that doesn’t waste all that time and effort, not to mention the money spent on filament. Luckily, there’s a creative solution to recycling those failed prints. Turn them into something new.
Many failed 3D prints still have usable parts, or they still managed to come out looking like something. Merely using simple items like tape, glue or string you could flex your designer mind and come up with something unique to transform them into.
We've seen people turn failed doorknockers into pen holders and statues into plant pots. If your Deadpool bust started malfunctioning as soon as it got to the head, and your Thanos bust has salmon skin all the way up to its neck, why not get creative?. Cut them in half and glue the two good halves together to create an original character. You can call him Thanpool... or Deadnos.
Sometimes there's no way your failed print can transform into something else. Another solution is to smash up your prints and melt them down into new sheets of plastic. Obviously you should make sure you’re smashing and melting safely, plastics can give off some toxic fumes as we’ve discussed. But, once you have your newly created plastic sheet, you can chop it up or melt it into a new shape.
This can also be a visually appealing process if you’ve 3D printed your models in multiple colors, as you will have more to play with. When melting the different colors together in a sheet you can create interesting patterns or you can separate the colours to create monochrome sheets and stick them together. There are plenty of ways to be creative with this method of recycling your failed prints, and it’s fun too!
If you want some ideas, check out this video from Make Anything:
Make New Filament From Left Over Prints
The smashing and melting method isn’t only good for arts and crafts. It can actually be used to create your own filament.
The Filament Extruder, maybe you’ve heard of it, is an easy to use machine that transforms your failed 3D prints into upcycled filament. To use the extruder, smash and melt your failed 3D prints and scraps (remembering to be safe),then feed the molten plastic into your machine where it will be squeezed through a tiny hole. As the plastic comes out of the extruder it passes over an airpath which cools the newly molded filament which then wraps around a spooler at an adjustable speed. When it's processed you’ll be left with a brand new spool of upcycled filament akin to what you would buy online.
The Filament Extruder is an investment, but perhaps a worthwhile one. You can purchase your own from Filabot for around $3,000 to $10,000 USD, or shop around for some smaller more cost effective alternatives.
Additionally, you can try building your own extruder. We recommend having high machine proficiency and following the proper safety procedures when undertaking this project, as many have done. If you want a smaller build project, it's also possible to buy sections of the full machine separately, leaving you to build the parts you don't own. Perhaps you can buy the extruder section and build your own airpath and spooler.
With this method of recycling you'll be able to save money on filament in the long run and save the environment while you're at it.
Create a Failed Prints Box To Educate Friends
Some makers decide to keep all their failed prints stored exactly as they are. A popular option is to keep them all in a big box. This is the box that many call “The Box of Shame!”
We have even seen some makers keep them for educational purposes. It’s always fun to introduce someone new to the world of 3D printing, and learning about 3D printing means learning of its lows as well as its highs. Sharing with your protégé your very own box of shame will let them down easy; even the most seasoned 3D designers & makers have bad days.
Repurpose Your ABS Materials
If you’re using ABS you can break down the material from your failed 3D prints to create different substances.. ABS is an oil based filament which means it can be broken down with certain acids, like acetone, and made into these new materials.
There are three different ABS liquids you can create; ABS glue, ABS juice and ABS slurry. You'll be working with some tricky materials to make these substances so remember, (say it with us this time) STAY SAFE!
ABS Glue is made by mixing 50ml of acetone with 8g of ABS scrap and leaving it overnight to thicken. When it’s ready it should look and act just like the name suggests. ABS Glue can be used to stick two bits of ABS together, it works much better than regular glue (Maybe you can use it to make Thanpool).
ABS Juice is one juice that you definitely shouldn't drink, though you should use it to stick to your glass printer bed and effectively prevent shifting & warping. It’s made by mixing 50ml of acetone with just 4g of ABS scrap and being left overnight. In the morning it should look a little like milk in consistency, but it won’t smell like it. ABS Juice has a very specific use so don’t use it if you have a plastic printer bed, unless you’re looking for a reason to throw it out.
ABS Slurry is the perfect solution to adding to your ABS model for a smoothing or strengthening effect. It’s made by mixing 50ml of acetone with a massive 20g of scrap ABS and being left overnight. When it’s finished it should behave like silly putty, very gloopy. ABS Slurry is the most useful of the liquids, you can cover up any holes or smooth any uneven areas of your 3D model, perhaps the areas you used your ABS glue on. You can also add the slurry to weak areas of your 3D model to build it up and make it stronger. Just remember to make sure the ABS Slurry you make is the same color as the model you’re using it on.
For more detailed instructions for making these materials check out the recipes from MatterHackers.
There are so many ways to deal with your prints without sending them to landfill. Use a specialist recycling service, make your own art, use a filament extruder to create new filament, create some ABS substances or just keep them all in a big box. There’s no need to stress about printing problems, Failed 3D printed waste should be a thing of the past.
What will you do to recycle your failed 3D prints? Will you take them to be responsibly disposed of? Will you make your own art? Your own filament?
Maybe you have your own sustainable idea of how to recycle your box of shame. If you do please feel free to share it with us and the community. You can do so on our discussion page on Reddit, or on our Twitter or Facebook.
And if in doubt, don’t throw it out!