From Fail To Wail: Guitar Picks Made From 3D Printed Waste

Between failed prints and iterative designs that need a few attempts before you nail them down, a certain amount of wasted material is essentially unavoidable when 3D printing. The good news is that PLA is a bioplastic and can be broken down via industrial composting, but even still, any method that allows you to reuse this material at home is worth taking a look at.

In a recent video, [Noah Zeck] details one potential use for your scrap plastic by turning his failed 3D prints into guitar picks. The idea here could really be applied to anything you can make out of thin plastic sheeting, but the fact that you can easily and cheaply produce picks with a commercially available punch makes this application particularly appealing.

The first step in this process is about as low-tech as it gets: wrap your scrap printed parts in rags, and beat them with a sledge hammer. This breaks them up into smaller and more manageable pieces, which is important for the next step. If the parts are small enough and you’ve got a decently powerful blender you don’t mind devoting to plastic recycling, we imagine that would make short work of this step as well.

Once suitably pulverized, [Noah] puts the plastic on a piece of glass and gets it warmed up with a heat gun. PLA has a fairly low glass transition temperature, so it shouldn’t take much time to soften. Then he puts a second piece of glass on top and squeezes them together to get a thin, flat sheet of plastic. Once cooled, he punches his guitar picks out of the sheet, with bonus points if the colors swirled around into interesting patterns. If you’re not musically inclined, we’ve seen a very similar method used to produce colorful floor tiles.

12 thoughts on “From Fail To Wail: Guitar Picks Made From 3D Printed Waste

  1. I wonder if my shop blender would break smaller parts down, and you could get some gauge blocks or make hardwood spacers for setting the thickness. Interesting use of scrap, and of course the stuff left from the sheets you punch the picks out of can go right back into the scrap pile…

  2. I had some ideas about creating some keychains in a form of “coins” using some homemade shallow mold with electric heating. I thought about using ceramic or maybe just dried clay or gypsum with appropriate non-sticky coating for this purpose.

    Another idea was to create something like big glue gun – like a metal syringe – so you could put the small pieces inside, put the heating on and later just squeeze the molten plastic out…

    So far, it was only an idea.

  3. One of the first designs I used on my 3d printer was guitar picks. After I gathered enough scrap I had a friend make new filament out of it and made more picks.

    I don’t even play guitar (that much) but I give them to friends. They don’t last very long, tending to fray after much use, so I give away a lot of them.

    1. This seems like a solution in search of a problem. I play on average every other day and haven’t bought a new pick in the last 20 years. Similarly no one 3D prints firing pins. Factory made is the way to go.

        1. Pants come with these things called pockets. I also find it easy to put the pick back on top of the amp when I’m done. Alternatively you can weave it into the strings or wedge it between the pickguard and the body. Losing picks is for lazy lima beans.

      1. Having used far more firing pins than picks, I wouldn’t even think of 3d printing them, not enough mass. The picks were just one of many things I was fooling around with when I started 3d printing.

    2. I was wondering about how well they hold up in use.

      I’ve created picks out of old credit cards in the past and the strings, at least on an electric guitar just ate the picks pretty quickly. After a session there was fine plastic dust over the guitar and myself, and im by no means a hardcore player.

      1. They have a tendency to delaminate and shred. I have one friend who goes through at least one pick per set, but he’s rough on them, and it’s not just breakage, he loses them constantly.

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