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3D printing and recycling: the incredible work of the University of Toronto

Is 3D printing good for the planet? This is one of the often cited benefits for additive manufacturing. Indeed, only the material needed to build the part is used and there is no loss.

But 3D printing waste to recycle is even better! Because everyone knows that the share of unvalued waste in the world is a major problem. For example, in France only 25% of plastic packaging is recycled, and almost 50% of household waste is not valued.

How to print green? PLA is a material commonly used in 3D printing to produce filaments. Initially, it came from a waste of the corn industry. The demand for this material is growing very strongly, as it has the advantage of being biodegradable and having barrier properties. Over the past several years, the bioplastics industry has grown. We are growing for the purpose of producing these bioplastics, because the waste can no longer cover tomorrow alone. Naturplast estimates in an article that the market will account for 2.44 million tonnes in 2022.

Plastic cups can also be recycled to produce a material compatible with 3D printers. The start-up Plastif has chosen this business model and offers collection points in the offices and then produces a printable material.

3D printing of acrylated waste cooking oil
The process proposed by researchers at the University of Toronto

Recycling food waste with 3D printing

3D printing and recycling is one of the challenges of the food industry. In this area, some start-ups have entered this niche. In the Netherlands, designers Elzelinde van Doleweerd and Vita Broeken launched Uprinting Food. The principle is to print snacks from food waste. They use a paste extrusion system to make beautiful shapes.

Natural Machines has also developed a program with Iceland to reuse fish flesh that was usually discarded to make a printable paste.

Recently, the University of Toronto announced that it has developed a resin from frying oil recycling. André Simpson is a professor at UTSC and has been using 3D printing for several years. Three years ago, he thought about the potential of using frying oil to make a biodegradable resin. The fat molecules in cooking oil are similar to those used in resins. Thanks to a crylization, and the addition of a photo-initiator the research team was able to produce a resin that can be used in a standard resin printer.

The resin is biodegradable and the printed parts are very stable. The researchers were able to print butterflies, with a detailfineness of up to 100 microns. They made an agreement with MacDonalds restaurants to collect used food oil. Thus, they carried out their tests under real conditions and not just laboratory.

You should know that resin for 3D printer is very expensive! It’s hard to find resins for less than 100 euros per 1 litre. These researchers have transformed waste into a qualitative material with great value. Today used food oils are collected in part to make biofuel. But there is still much to do to achieve a virtuous cycle of frying oil. This discovery is really good news!

What waste in the kitchen would you like to recycle better? We’re waiting for your feedback!

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