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Questions? Call Us: (334) 648-9354

The Science Behind 3D Printing and Filament

There’s no better way to finish up Earth month than with a rundown on the science behind 3D printing and the differences between recycled and new filament. Over the last few years, the buzz about 3D printing has grown exponentially. But for those new to the concept, there are still a lot of questions about how 3D printers work and what they can do. Surprisingly, 3D printers are not as complicated as you might think. Keep reading to learn about the science behind this unique way of printing and the filament used in the process.

ABS filament vs. PLA filament for 3D Printing

What is 3D Printing?

For every 3D printing project, filament (new or recycled) goes in the printer and out comes gooey plastic. There are two types of plastic used acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS, chemical based) and polylactic acid (PLA, naturally sourced). Whichever filament is used, the production process is the same. The filament is fed into the 3D printer’s head and a gear pulls it through, then it is heated and liquified. Out comes fine lines that quickly adhere together in layers, known as additive manufacturing. The print head and print surface (print bed) work together to develop the design in three dimensions. 

New versus Recycled Filament

Although extraordinarily useful, 3D printing uses a lot of plastic, which often results in tons of waste. One way to avoid excess waste is by using recycled filament. Unlike new filament, this recycled plastic could be made up of reused acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, reused polylactic acid, or a combination of both. Recycling waste filament can reduce excess waste while minimizing our plastic footprint left on Earth. 

The majority of filaments are not sourced from recycled materials, but the ones that are can be used for printing in the same way. The raw materials sourced from plastic bottles and other recyclable scraps are loaded in and grinded down into tiny plastic pellets. These pellets are heated and cooled just as regular filament and then formed into filament that will then be used for 3D printing.

Printing with Recycled Filament

Due to the unique nature of recycled filament, printing varies based on the filament’s composition. Recycled filament typically has larger tolerances. This means that due to the filament diameter it is less accurate and is more likely to clog the hot end.

At GL Robotics, we use a variety of 3D printing materials including, ASA, Carbon Fiber, PETG, PLA, High Heat PLA, Filled PLA, ABS, Polycarbonate, PC + PBT, Flexible TPU, and Semi-Flexible TPU. We are here to take care of all your 3D printing needs. Give us a call today to learn more!

GL Robotics- 3D Printing Experts