You have purchased one of the best 3D printers for yourself. You’ve learned how to do this with our beginner’s guide to 3D printing. You may even have designed your own 3D models with OpenSCAD. You are no longer a 3D printing beginner.

But no matter how good you are at 3D printing, you will end up with unwanted or failed prints. Maybe you have experimented with a new thread. Perhaps you were still calibrating your machine, or an accidental push messed up the last batch. Whatever the reason, bad prints happen.

Today I’m going to show you some of the coolest things you can do with all those broken parts.

1. Create something cool

One of the easiest ways to recycle prints is to combine two or more prints into something new and unique. Consider combining something like a bust of Yoda or a low poly Darth Vader into a new unique figure. The best part is that you only need simple materials like glue or tape.

This project depends entirely on what you have. If you’re only designing and printing prototype parts this can be tricky, but if you’re printing the best 3D prints for tabletop fantasy RPGs printable versions for tabletop fantasy RPGs then you already have everything you need!

If you don’t have the parts you need but still want to make something cool, check out this video on the Make Anything YouTube channel.

As shown, it is possible to smash, melt and turn a few failed prints into a new and unique item. You can even achieve a multi-colored design by combining prints of different colors — or stick to one solid color — the choice is yours!

2. DIY Thread Recycling Machine

Did you know that it is possible to recycle 100 percent of your failed prints? I’m not talking about your local recycling facilities, I’m talking about recycling your parts into brand new filament, ready to be printed again.

Using a machine that looks more like a manufacturing process than a DIY project, this recycling workflow is «loosely» called filament extruder .

Filament extrusion almost always consists of three steps:

  1. Break up old parts
  2. Melting and extruding thread
  3. Filament coil on a new coil

First, each failed print is broken into very small pieces. This makes melting easier. Once melted, the liquid plastic is passed through a small hole and then cooled before being wound onto a plastic spool. This is a very cool process that is actually a form of injection molding.

As YouTuber Hugh Lyman shows in this video, it’s a tough project, but don’t let that stop you from saving the planet!

Equipment such as Filabot is available for purchase but very expensive. If you want to learn more about this project, check out the many extruders you can print yourself! Popular models include Lyman/Mulier or Yalfe.

3. Make ABS Juice

This processing method only applies to filament made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS). Since ABS is oil based, it can be melted with acidic liquids. By combining a small piece of ABS with acetone, three different liquids can be made, all with slightly different uses.

ABS juice: used to help the pieces stick to the bed.
ABS glue: Used for gluing or welding two pieces.
ABS Slurry: used to fill any small holes between parts — the filler of the 3D printing world.

By sacrificing some bad prints, you can improve the quality of the good ones!

The Hoffman Engineering YouTube channel shows us how to do this:

Be careful! Even when combined with ABS, acetone is still a solvent that can injure you if used incorrectly. Although acetone is very mild, it can still cause skin irritation. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

4. Recycle on site

Our ultimate recycling technology is exactly what you need: recycling!

Theoretically, most 3D printed parts can be recycled, but you will struggle to do so. It also depends a lot on what material you are printing on. Once again, ABS is the big offender here. ABS can produce some very nasty chemicals and fumes, which is why it almost always ends up in a landfill.

If you’re not interested in recycling, then this short video from YouTuber Amanda Anez explains why it’s so beneficial:

Eco-friendly PLA is often advertised as being biodegradable, but it has a catch! PLA can take hundreds of years to decompose if conditions are not ideal. While PLA does not release any harmful substances when it decomposes, many recycling service providers may refuse to accept it as it can be difficult to deal with other plastics.

One of the easiest decisions you can make is to compost it at a factory or at home. Composting simply speeds up the natural decomposition process. Composting at home can take a long time, but you should do your best to keep plastic out of the landfill.

You can also use a filament recycling service such as that provided by Filabot. Just pack your PLA, mail it in and they’ll recycle it.

How do you recycle your 3D prints?

Today we’ve covered a few ways to recycle bad 3D prints, but there are many more things you can do. In truth, you are only limited by your prints and your creativity!

If you’re looking for something to print, why not take a look at these amazing Star Wars props or educational toys !

What do you do with a failed 3D print? Do you have a complicated sorting process for color, material and size? Or do you just throw them in the trash?

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