Innovative technology

Sustainable material from the 3D printer

Many companies and designers have been working with the 3D printing process for some time and have gained experience. From screws to luminaires to chairs: the design possibilities seem limitless.

Aug 30 2021

In addition to design freedom, the material used for 3D printing also plays an important role. Materials manufacturer Covestro has now unveiled its first chair made of glass-fibre filled material suitable for high-performance and structural applications using 3D granulate printing (FGF). 

3D printing material made from recycled PET 

Initially, the 3D printing process was perceived by the public mainly as a gimmick with no real benefit. However, the past few years have clearly shown that this assessment was wrong. 3D printing has become an important part of the design process - also in the furniture industry. 

While in the past perhaps miniatures of prototypes came out of the printer, today companies are already working on their first product lines. The focus here is not only on the creative freedom that 3D printing brings. The issue of sustainability and resource efficiency are also crucial for some designers.  

Even though 3D printing has not always been associated with sustainable technology until now, developments in recent years show that additive manufacturing can be done without the use of additional plastic. Researchers at Michigan Technology University, for example, have developed a filament for the 3D printer from recycled wood waste from the furniture industry. And Dutch designer Beer Holthuis is already producing the first objects from paper pulp with his Paper Pulp Printer. 

Another current example of a sustainable material for printing has now been presented by materials manufacturer Covestro: a recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) filled with glass fibres for 3D granulate printing, which was developed by the Additive Manufacturing business unit recently acquired by DSM. 

More sustainability, less cost 

Arnite® AM2001 GF (G) rPET - this is the name of the new material made from PET waste that underlines Covestro's vision of a closed loop economy. The recycled PET has been optimised for 3D granulate printing. This technology, also known as Fused Granulate Fabrication (FGF), enables fast and economical additive manufacturing of large-format parts. 

Direct application printing lowers costs by reducing product development time. It also allows for flexible design, which can help reduce material costs. 3D printing is already in itself a more sustainable production method, as only the required material is used. By also making the material itself more sustainable, Covestro is helping manufacturers transition to a circular economy. 

"The introduction of this high-performance material for 3D granule printing is an important step towards creating circular supply chains," explains Hugo Da Silva, global head of additive manufacturing at DSM's former Resins & Functional Materials business. "With PET packaging accounting for more than 50 per cent of all plastic waste, extending its life by reusing it as a feedstock offers a widely available alternative to virgin raw materials - without compromising on performance or total cost of ownership."

And Patrick Rosso, global head of additive manufacturing at Covestro, added: "We are excited about the launch of this circular material developed by our new colleagues. It fits perfectly with Covestro's vision of a circular economy." 

Arnite® AM2001 (G) rPET's mechanical properties and wide processing window make it ideal for structural applications in a variety of industries, including pedestrian bridges, tiles for bicycle or pedestrian tunnels, architectural applications such as cladding or partitions, indoor and outdoor furniture, small boats, packaging boxes or tooling. The introduction of this high-performance material for 3D granulate printing is an important step towards creating circular supply chains.

Author: Bernadette Trepte

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