Dutch graduates make recycled plastic filament for 3D printers… from car parts

Refil presentation

Five graduates in the Netherlands have developed a recycled plastic filament for 3D printers, made from end-of-life car dashboards. Through their Better Future Factory innovation consultancy, the young Rotterdam-based entrepreneurs have formed a start-up company called Refil to manufacture and sell the filament.

As 3D printing takes off – the market is set to reach $16bn by 2018 – there is a risk that more virgin plastic will be consumed and more plastic waste created, adding to the already substantial plastic pollution challenge. Refil’s new ‘refilament’ offers an alternative to virgin plastic filament, in a move that will make 3D printing more sustainable, the company says.

Refil has made its first batch of ‘refilaments’ from old car dashboards, door panels and other ABS parts (creating a 100% recycled black filament) and PET bottles (creating a 90% recycled translucent filament). The recycling process works by shredding scraps into tiny pieces and removing contaminants. The pieces are then melted and turned into 1.75mm or 2.85mm diameter strings that are wound around recycled carbon spools. Importantly, there are no harmful chemicals used in the process.

“We don’t add any toxic dyes to our products and this has been our biggest challenge. After a lot of research, we have developed refilaments that have the exact same quality as ordinary filaments, without adding any toxics,” Refil researcher Laura Klaus tells PSFK.

Elsewhere, US-based start-up Dimension Polymers has also just showcased its new recycled plastic filament. The company shared its creation at the 3D Print Show in New York. Having raised more than $20,000 via an online crowd-funding campaign, it has developed a proprietary recycling system to produce 95% recycled ABS plastic filaments. The team sources the feedstock from waste collection centres and scrap yards.

Refil’s ‘refilament’ recently won the IDTechEx Best Material Development Award at the 3D Printing Europe Awards. To read more about Refil, click here.

To hear how MBA Polymers is helping its JV partner EMR to exceed EU end-of-life vehicle (ELV) recycling targets, please visit our website.