The solution proposed by HSSMI included:
1 - 3D printing market report
The main outcomes of the report developed by HSSMI are:
- Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) is the leading 3D printing technology, with 66% of the printers on the market being FFF printers.
- Among 3D printing technologies, FFF does not rank as the most precise or the fastest, but its relatively low price and ease of use enables companies to develop cost-effective prototype designs.
- FFF is mainly used for education, rapid prototyping and grips, jigs and fixtures.
- Polylactic acid (PLA) or Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) are the preferred materials, as they are easy to use and they have proven to be reliable and have a competitive price, as well as good mechanical properties.
- Packaging and spools are one of the waste streams generated by FFF. Usually a kilogram of filament comes wrapped around a plastic spool weighing about 250 grams.
- Failed prints, prototypes that are not used anymore and support material are also a significant source of waste.
2 - Supply chain engagement
During the project it was determined that the main organisations that generate the most waste are universities. Many of them have several FFF printers that students use for prototyping.
The project found enough PLA waste volumes and tried to develop a closed loop supply chain. However, the main barrier to developing the closed loop supply chain was the quality of the waste collected. The volume of quality waste was not high enough to efficiently sort it. Most of the waste was small pieces and it could not be guaranteed that they were not contaminated, making it very difficult to recycle.
3 - Life Cycle Assessment (LCA)
The results show that the CLIFFF filament is not just competitive in terms of quality and performance but also is more sustainable than any virgin filaments. Many universities and 3D hubs are aware of this and many of them already use recycled filaments. HSSMI expects that the use of recycled filament will become more widespread and generate a commercial opportunity for the filament developed in CLIFFF.