Filament Friday: Refil ABS Is Recycled Plastic for More Sustainable Prints

3D Printing & Imaging Digital Fabrication
Filament Friday: Refil ABS Is Recycled Plastic for More Sustainable Prints

A major complaint leveraged against 3D printing is the creation of additional plastic waste that is quickly filling the world’s waterways. Most filament on the market is created from new, first-use polymers, but the team at Refil is working to combat that with their line of recycled plastic filament — creating little to no extra plastic waste.

A good friend of mine called me up to let me know he was helping out with 3D Brooklyn (who have recently been creating downloadable models for the History channel’s Vikings TV show) and that he thought I should check out the new filament they were bringing to the US market. He sent me a spool of the Refil ABS, a filament made from 100% recycled car parts, with no virgin plastic used. While you may not get the color options found in new plastics (Refil ABS only comes in black) you will have the peace of mind knowing that you are not contributing to the pollution problem as much as using new plastic.

Using the Refil ABS made me remember how much I love printing in ABS. It was not that long ago that ABS was the dominant 3D printing material and PLA was experimental. ABS cools almost immediately upon exiting the extruder, removing the need for print cooling fans and giving a great surface finish on all sides, not just the one the cooling fan points to. While ABS might not be as strong and rigid as PLA, it’s less brittle, so is a great choice for many mechanical projects.

My test prints turned out beautifully, showing great detail even at modest print settings (.2 layer height). The Dapper Deity above was designed by my good friend Jason Loik, and I used it as one of my tests. I printed the model on an Ultimaker 2+ with the default ABS profile. The model’s overhangs came out perfectly and there was no stringing in the small towers of his tentacles. Everything just came out cleanly.

Of course ABS is prone to shrinking and warping, and the Refil ABS didn’t fix this problem. You will need a printer with a heated bed to be able to print ABS. Putting an enclosure around it to keep the heat in and remove drafts will help a lot too. ABS also has a pretty strong plastic smell to it when printing that many find to be too strong for them.

Many people don’t like the layer lines created by 3D printing and ABS is the easiest material to post process to help remove those lines. ABS is easy to sand and is dissolvable in acetone, allowing acetone vapor smoothing to do most of the work for you (be careful when using acetone, it’s nasty stuff).

While the single color may mean this material isn’t perfect for your final print run, I think using recycled filament for prototyping and one-off parts is a great way to help reduce the impact your 3D printing habit can have on the environment.

Check back every Friday for weekly reviews on 3D printing filament.

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Matt is a community organizer and founder of 3DPPVD, Ocean State Maker Mill, and HackPittsburgh. He is Make's digital fabrication and reviews editor.

View more articles by Matt Stultz


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