3D Printer Filament From Reel-to-Reel Audio Tapes

plantpot made from recycled audio tape filament in a 3D printer. Pot contains a succulent plant and is surrounded by tape

At heart, 3D printers are just machines that can melt plastic “wire” into interesting shapes. It’s well-known and oft-lamented that plastic of various sorts has been used to make all manner of household objects that might eventually end up in landfill or otherwise littering the environment. With these facts in mind and a surplus of tape, [brtv-z] decided to see if he could recycle some old reel-to-reel audio tapes into working filament for a 3D printer.

The homebrew rig to convert old audio tape into the unconventional filament

This isn’t the first time he has tried to print with unusual second-hand polymers, back in 2020 he pulled of a similar trick using VHS tape. Through experimentation, it was soon determined that seven strands of quarter-inch tape could be twisted together and fused to form a very tough-looking filament approximately 1.7 mm in diameter, which could then be fed into the unsuspecting printer.

The resulting prints are certainly different in a number of respects from using virgin filament. The material is porous, brittle and (unsurprisingly) rather rusty-looking, but it does have some interesting properties.  It retains its magnetism and it catches the light in an unusual way. The video is after the break (in Russian, but YouTube does a reasonable job of generating English captions).

Don’t have any tape handy? No worries, we’ve also covered machines that can recycle plastic waste into filament before. In fact, two of them even won the 2022 Hackaday Prize. What else could you melt down that might otherwise be thrown away?

17 thoughts on “3D Printer Filament From Reel-to-Reel Audio Tapes

  1. All the effort to make a flower pot. Remember how just a few years ago even Microsoft was so hyped on “3D for everyone” with “Paint 3D”, “3D Objects” and all the other 3D stuff in Windows 10 🤡 Now it’s gone and forgotten like Microsoft Bob.

    1. Dunno if I ‘d qualify the inclusion of features in an OS that debuted 8 years ago as “a few years ago” or comparing a minor feature of an OS from 8 years ago (and still supported) to a failed piece software from nearly 30 years ago that failed to be supported after a year is an apt comparison.
      Or that M$FTs inclusion of the software amounted to unwarranted hype. And it’s not gone, it’s just not preinstalled on Windows X but can be readily installed from the store. Certainly not forgotten as I believe it is the default app it suggests you download if you try to open an stll, ply or other 3d file. Their hype train went hand in hand with the hardware (Holo Lens) they were demoing as useful with Windows 10.

      Besides, the effort isn’t “to make a flower pot”. The effort is in the recycling of the material. I’m super interested in process that break down existing plastics for re-use at the hobbyist level since corporate run and municipal backed recycling programs seem to mostly be a joke. I’d love to be able to break down the plastic I bring home and spin into usable filament.

      1. At least they didn’t lose billions on a grift nearly nobody got into, unlike Fa$ebook…
        Oh sorry, I mean M£ta

        But with a little more oven time and a cheaper price tag, the Hololens could have formed the base for a M€taverse kind of thing eventually. I mean, look at the G₩gle Glass fans, they are still out there hoping for updates and supporting their community, if the Hololens got that kind of treatment it could have got really far. But since the M€taverse failed so badly, that won’t happen in the near future. Maybe for the best…
        Ah, the Glass… Good old times when people thought walking around with a camera on your face was a privacy issue. How far we’ve gotten…

      1. I use it all the time, it’s also wicked convenient for repairing models quickly. It’s simple to use and capable of pretty impressive stuff. I sure hope they keep supporting it, I’d even love to see more features.

  2. Recycling reel-to-reel feels a bit sad given how little I see of those tapes…
    Regular, common VHS tape, on the other hand, sounds much more ethical
    I even knew some dudes who made wind direction viewers with it

    1. After the breakup of the Soviet Union my organization sent a lot of our unneeded 9-track tapes to Russia.
      It’s nice to see someone found a use for the.
      B^)

      1. I mean, you can also use them in a tape delay/echo/flanger if you build or buy the hardware. I think…
        Not to mention recording and mixing music on them for absolute “vintage mojo”

  3. Peoples that do that must be [violence redacted]. Audio and video tapes are valuable resource, memory of our past and every tape must be digitized but as well keeped forever. In the some of shitty western countries there are criminal offense to destroy archival material of any kind. So for your stupid experiments please find another source like plastic bottles or plastic bags. Otherwise you proceed a crime against memory of the humanity, even if this is a personal videotapes or you bought it from the flea market. Peoples made Cannes award movies from random tapes bought on flea market and ebay. So you are not hackers, but criminals against the past.

    1. I agree with you, before ever recycling any tape it is a must to check whether there is any original, unarchived or home video/audio recorded on it, and back it up properly (with someone else’s better gear if they let you) so that you can store and share it. “Home videos” (smut), though, should always get a pass.
      However, mass-produced movies on the lowly VHS format (D-VHS tapes though are a treasure) aren’t really worth that much for me, and IMHO can be recycled with a light conscience, either by turning them into filament, recording over them for that lo-fi 80s homebrew video, or using them as high-capacity reel-to-reel storage (if you have the knowledge and ability to modify a tape deck and design/adapt your own file system – anyone wants to try?)

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