Michigan Technological University researcher makes 3D printer filament from milk jugs from less energy

Converting milk jugs to 3D printer filament

7:59 AM, 6th March 2014
Michigan Technological University researcher makes 3D printer filament from milk jugs
Converting milk jugs to 3D printer filament.

HOUGHTON, US: A new study led by Joshua Pearce, Associate Professor, Michigan Technological University has shown that making a plastic 3D printer filament from milk jugs uses less energy - often a lot less -than recycling milk jugs conventionally. Pearce’s team did a life-cycle analysis on a run-of-the-mill milk jug made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic. After cleaning it and cutting it in pieces, they ran it through an office shredder and a RecycleBot, which turns waste plastic into 3D printer filament.

Compared to an ideal urban recycling programme, which collects and processes plastic locally, turning milk jugs into filament at home uses about 3 per cent less energy. “Where it really shows substantial savings is in smaller towns like Houghton, US where you have to transport the plastic to be collected, then again to be recycled, and a third time to be made into products,” said Pearce. Then the energy savings skyrocket to 70-80 per cent. And, recycling your own milk jugs uses 90 per cent less energy than making virgin plastic from petroleum.

“Filament is retailing for between $36 and $50 a kilogram, and you can produce your own filament for 10 cents a kilogram if you use recycled plastic. There’s a clear incentive, even if you factor in the cost of buying the RecycleBot. HDPE plastic isn’t ideal. It shrinks slightly as it cools, so you have to take that into account. But if you are making something like a statue or a pencil holder, it doesn’t matter,” added Pearce.

This new recycling technology has caught the eye of the Ethical Filament Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of waste pickers, who scour other people’s trash for items to sell or recycle. “In the developing world, it’s hard to get filament, and if these recyclers could make it and sell it for, say, $15 a kilogram, they’d make enough money to pull themselves out of poverty while doing the world a lot of good,” said Pearce.

© Michigan Technological University News

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