Fail Of The Week: Upcycling Failed 3D Prints

Is it possible to recycle failed 3D prints? As it turns out, it is — as long as your definition of “recycle” is somewhat flexible. After all, the world only needs so many coasters.

To be fair, [Devin]’s experiment is more about the upcycling side of the recycling equation, but it was certainly worth undertaking. 3D printing has hardly been reduced to practice, and anyone who spends any time printing knows that it’s easy to mess up. [Devin]’s process starts when the colorful contents of a bin full of failed prints are crushed with a hammer. Spread out onto a properly prepared (and never to be used again for cookies) baking sheet and cooked in the oven at low heat, the plastic chunks slowly melt into a thin, even sheet.

[Devin]’s goal was to cast them into a usable object, so he tried to make a bowl. He tried reheating discs of the material using an inverted metal bowl as a form but he found that the plastic didn’t soften evenly, resulting in Dali-esque bowls with thin spots and holes. He then flipped the bowl and tried to let the material sag into the form; that worked a little better but it still wasn’t the win he was looking for.

In the end, all [Devin] really ended up with is some objets d’art and a couple of leaky bowls. What else could he have done with the plastic? Would he have been better off vacuum forming the bowls or perhaps even pressure forming them? Or does the upcycling make no sense when you can theoretically make your own filament? Let us know in the comments how you would improve this process.

Thanks for the tip, [bthy]

29 thoughts on “Fail Of The Week: Upcycling Failed 3D Prints

  1. Why “upcycling” when the word “recycling” is perfectly adequate. The recycling equation? never heard of that one perhaps you can explain it. most people are familiar with the waste hierarchy of reduce reuse recycle, where does upcycle come into it?
    The author of the video says recycling so where does upcycling come from? hip and with-it tagging and metadata driven by ad revenue I would guess.

    recycling waste parts might be a good excuse to build a shredder/extruder.

    1. upcycling is a term for something that’s a combination of re-use and repurposing. It’s what you do with something which isn’t fit to be re-used, but can be made into something else worthwhile without having to be completely reprocessed. So, in this case, turning the plastic back into filament would be recycling, but slumping it into things which people might find pleasant or useful would be upcycling. Still creates value, but less resource intensive. There is a relatively enlightening article on wikipedia, which you could read on the offchance that you’re actually interested in the answer to your question rather than just complaining about people using an unfamiliar word.

      I’ve considered building a filament recycler, but don’t do nearly enough prints to justify it. Might make a good project for a hackspace.

        1. Hm, not necessarily. I’ve seen ‘upcycled’ cutlery which has been heated and worked into bracelets and stuff, with an anvil etc., so clearly some level of reprocessing is appropriate.

    2. Dunno but whenever I hear upcycling it always implies to me that we are talking a low effort endeavor. Since I more associate it with things like making a superficial change (new colour) to a desk lamp that you where going to throw away that saves it from the bin.

      1. Based on daytime tv it would seem to be bored middle aged women with nothing better to do ruining a piece of ‘antique’ furniture by ‘painting’ it incompetently. I wouldn’t call this upcycling because inevitably the end result is worse than the original.

    3. Generally I think of recycling as taking something down to a point of being used as raw material. Upcycling is more along the lines of finding a new use with some tweaks. For example, using old electronics housings as containers for new raspberry pi toys would be upcycling, whereas ripping the housings apart and using the raw wood for other projects would be recycing. I know this isn’t some kind of concrete definition, but that’s where my mind goes.

      1. Also how I view it. More on the old ‘reuse’ arm of the R-R-R trefoil.
        Things like restoring furniture, or taking a set of draws from a desk and turning it into a filing cabinet. Using a cut up milk jug as a paint bucket or feed scoop. Making an outdoor (or indoor if you’re a college student) couch out of a pile of pallets.
        Like you said, low effort projects that repurpose things that would otherwise be garbage. It is a bit buzzwordy though.

  2. Think I would personally either go full bore into the idea of recycling and process the scraps into new filament. Or I would stop at the large trays of melted pieces from the video and sell them as modern art. Because those big sheets where pretty darn cool.

    1. +1

      in industry the waste is often shredded to pellet size, mixed with new feedstock and then reused, often all on site.

      mixing in new feedstock is required if you want the material properties to be predictable, the amount of decomposition products would change if the same plastic was recycled again and again with no new stock.
      filament extruding is another added step of decomposition, but as long as one takes that into account it shouldn’t be that big of a problem.

      a better solution would be for someone to make a 3d printer that would run on pellets but i don’t know if the mixing could be done well enough in a small enough package for it to be feasible.

      1. The new feedstock is important, but demonstrations are necessary sometimes just to remind people why. If he shredded and mixed in new material it would have likely gone a lot better.There are chemicals that are decomposed in the heating,that are also key to the plastic’s melting properties, so you can either add more of that chemical, or just mix in ~30% new material to bring it back up to useable one more time.

  3. I tried making a bowl out of those ironing beads once, resulted in a laminated glass bowl lol never got it out. will check for that MR150 stuff next time ill try something like that. I got loads of failed prints i wonder if i could make it into a rond bar and if its machinable on my lathe. probably results in a laminated lathe tool, maybe use that MR150 on the tool to haha :P

    1. I have seen a youtube video along the lines of your round stock idea. The guy was casting an aluminum rod in a steel tube that he flash cooled to more easily remove the casting. He was then able to load it up on his lathe and machine it.

    1. I had never heard of Fordite. It would be so cool to drop a piece in with a bunch of geodes and other interested genuine minerals and watch people try to figure out what it is. Completely reasonable name for this “mineral” :-) Thanx for sharing. I got a good laugh. :-)

  4. I generally try where I can to design parts to be usable for other things at EOL or in the case of a failed print. My first 3D printer had several upgrades built on top of failed extruder gears for instance. Couple extra holes in a gear box here, evenly spaced holes suitable for common fasteners in wheel or flat where acceptable there.

  5. My problem with my “Failed Parts Bin” is that i did not keep track on the materials and have not separated them by type of plastic. So, now i have a box with PLA, ABS, Nylon, PET,… and sometimes it’s not that easy to identify what the original material was. I’d guess that mixing all these different plastics together really would not help at all to remelt them into something useful.
    To transform the sheets of plastic into a bowl, i’d try to use a hot air gun and manually (with thick leather gloves) try to get it into a shape. You should have more control over the heating and flow of the plastic compared to an oven.
    From the pictures it looks like he should have crushed and mixed his colors/plastics better before remelting them too. These patchy colors may look nice, but as we all know, not every plastic (even if it’s all labeled “PLA”) is the same, so you would get better results if you grind/cut them into smaller pieces to get a more consistent, uniform mixture of the different plastics.
    Or maybe you should remelt each plastic seperately into these flat sheets first, then cut and thermoweld different chunks together, almost like tiffany-glass artwork?

    1. You could do actual stained glass/tiffany style art… Make frames and melt them into them. Well crumbed, separate colors.

      Not sure how it would come out if you printed thick black frame… May work.. Especially if ground smaller tham frame and you could take out of oven before frame melts too much.

    2. Would be better to have a bucket for each roll of filament type (material, color, etc), and collect into that bucket the fails and other shavings.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.