I think it's a lot of fun when two different trends I'm following come together, like 3D printing and robotics in that UAV we told you about recently. Now bioplastics and 3D printing are coming together in 3D-printed filament materials. Bioplastics formulator and manufacturer Sierra Resins and distributor 3D Printlife are working together to introduce a new biofilament for 3D printers.
Sierra Resins is known as a maker and licensor of polymer additives that trigger most molded compounds to break down in landfills associated with landfill-to-energy operations. 3D Printlife distributes 3D printers for home and business use, as well as filament and design templates.
A 3D-printed bioplastic ABS filament from Sierra Resins will be initially available in the typical ABS filament colors shown here -- including white, black, red, blue, yellow, and green -- plus transparent and a natural color. (Source: 3DPrintlife)
Sierra Resins says initial test runs have been done on a 3D-printing biofilament based on a type of bioplastic formulation that's currently in production for film and injection-molded products. This grade showed good processability, smoothness, and adherence to tolerances. You can watch a short video showing a test run here. The filament will be submitted to an independent ASTM-certified biodegradability testing laboratory.
The company has also submitted 3D filament samples into an actual bioreactor landfill environment for testing by researchers, John Tersigni, president and CEO of Sierra Resins, told Design News, in an email. "While it's important to be measured against a simulated landfill environment that encompasses internationally recognized testing standards, our thinking was, why not place it in an actual landfill-to-energy environment and compare results?" he wrote. "You can never have enough environmental test data."
The initial focus is on a bioplastic ABS. Tersigni explained that a recent research report by MarketsandMarkets on 3D printing materials cited ABS, nylon, and PLA as being the main plastics used. Sierra Resins estimates that about two-thirds of that market is for ABS filament as the carrier resin. The company also sees opportunity in a PET-based 3D printing filament, due to PET's strength and flexibility. "PET is also good for clear components for rapid prototyping," Tersigni wrote. "In addition, our new PET formulas, some of which we believe will perform for 3D printing, tie into our sustainable packaging strategy for cosmetic bottles, other consumer bottle applications, and thermoformed blister packs for retail display. Our 3D ABS biofilament introduction, along with our PET-based product development, is a direct response to PLA-based materials, at a very competitive price."
3D Printlife sells to households and small businesses with an e-commerce model and digital platform. Since there are many more small businesses and households than large enterprise businesses, Tersigni said this exposure will give Sierra Resins a lot more initial feedback about the new material. The biofilament will be initially available in typical ABS filament colors, including white, black, red, blue, yellow, and green, plus transparent and a natural color.
Yes Jim, a LOT of heat. There are also other chemical conditions that pertain. It's easy to find info about all this on Wikipedia and websites of the various companies that convert garbage to energy, as well as associations of those companies and organizations.
Thanks for clarifying, Ann – I was assuming the trigger was a particular temperature level, but then thought again that a bottle in a landfill, if buried deeply away from Sun & Weather, would mimic normal underground temperatures and hover around 55 degrees. But, on the contrary, I guess all that decomposition generates a lot of natural heat, doesn't it-?
As we've pointed out in many blogs, 3D printing is faster, less expensive, and less energy-intense for many aerospace applications. Another blog covered a study showing that it can be both cheaper and greener for consumers printing plastic items: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=269539 So my point is that 3D printing is not monolithic. It depends on how one is measuring and what variables are being included. The problem with blanket statements about 3D printing being faster or slower, less or more green/sustainable, and less or more expensive than other manufacturing methods is that all of these can be true, depending on the process, materials, application, users, build volume, part quantities/build and total builds.
Jim, actually that Pepsi bottle wouldn't be at all confused: temperatures inside a backpack in a closet don't resemble temperatures in a landfill, which can be quite high. Biodegradable and compostable plastics are usually formulated to trigger breakdown when certain temperatures are reached, which only occur inside landfills under certain conditions.
Ann these are great points, and not easy solutions.Thanks for laying them all out on the table.
I see from the Sierra website where the design-intent of the chemical resin is to be susceptible to microbe enzymes found in landfills.I admire and support the engineering efforts, but clearly state the double-edge sword of "biodegradability", being that structural breakdown should not (cannot-!) begin while the product is still in its Use-Life-Cycle.
I think WilliamK made an excellent supposition, describing a back-pack hanging in a dark closet.I imagine a bottle of Pepsi in that back pack could be very confused as to whether it was still in its Use-Life-Cycle, or if it had been tossed into EOL status.
I think a real breakthrough might be if there was a locked enzyme within the resin compound that could be chemically released to trigger the start of the decomposition cycle, once the physical product structure were to be crushed, broken, or fractured.There is a missing link in this whole equation, being the catalyst to 'start the process'.
A good portion of my business is reasoning out the secondary and tertiary results of actions. Not that very difficult, sort of like the safety FMEA thing that some folks use. ZOnly it goes beyond that.
Good observation William. Here many laws are passed by voter initiative. Lots of money comes in for the campaigns, and emotions run high. Our legislature seems to rarely weigh all options, think long term, debate and pass laws.
I think if people were better informed, they'd make better decisions. I guess good information doesn't make a good campaign.
Nadine, California is one state where quite a few government decisions llok like they were made based primarily on emotions with little regard for facts. Of course that is seeing it from far away. Some states on the east coast are much worse for that, the closer to the capitol the worse off they are.
And it is primarily in the programs that try to do things that are not really government resposibilities that it gets worse and worse.
William, biodegradable and compostable plastics are often formulated to trigger breakdown when certain temperatures are reached, temperatures that only occur inside landfills under certain conditions. This company is known for making an additive that helps polymers break down, but not in any old landfills: specifically in landfills that are associated with landfill-to-energy operations. These are very different in several ways from open landfills used by consumers. Reuse and recycling are usually considered the first best option, but not all plastics are recyclable.
Dow Chemical and several other companies have launched a program in Omaha, Neb. to divert about 36 tons of plastics from landfills in its first phase, and convert it into energy used for cement production.
A make-your-own Star Wars Sith Lightsaber hilt is heftier and better-looking than most others out there, according to its maker, Sean Charlesworth. You can 3D print it from free source files, and there's even a hardware kit available -- not free -- so you can build one just in time for Halloween.
Some next-generation bio-based materials are superior in performance to their petro-based counterparts, but also face some commercial challenges. This is especially true of certain biopolymers, adhesives, coatings, and advanced materials.
Cars and other vehicles, as well as electronics and medical devices, continue to lead the use cases for the new plastics products we've been seeing, as engineers design products for tougher environments.
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