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Weekend Project: Recycle Your Leftover Filament with a “Plastic Smoothie”

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Have a trash bin full of leftover filament scraps and failed prints? Designer Agustin Flowalistik shows us how to recycle 3D printing waste by creating a Plastic Smoothie, which can be used in a laser cutter to create vibrant objects. 

You know how the old saying goes… One manufacturing technology’s trash is another manufacturing technology’s treasure.

Well, at least that’s the case in the latest DIY project by Agustin Flowalistik. Looking for an easy and affordable way to recycle filament scraps and failed prints, the renowned designer came up with the idea to concoct a Plastic Smoothie.

While there are a variety of devices that allow you to recycle your 3D printing filament, Flowalistik’s latest method truly evokes the maker spirit. Using everyday kitchen appliances and laser cutting technology, you can create new objects with an endless array of colors.

After blending up all of your leftover filament into finely shredded plastic scraps, you’ll melt the colorful mess of plastic together in a mini oven. With this freshly baked sheet of recycled PLA, you can get creative using a laser cutter and a bit of vibrant imagination.

Here’s a brief overview on Flowalistik’s Plastic Smoothie project, which he recently shared on Instructables.

Plastic Smoothie: What Do You Need?

First and foremost, if you want to undertake the Plastic Smoothie project, you’re going to need an abundance of PLA filament scraps and failed prints to sacrifice. You’ll also need access to a laser cutter, which you can likely find at your local makerspace or FabLab. If you’re unfamiliar with laser cutting and want to learn more, be sure to check out our comprehensive overview on laser cutting technology.

Otherwise, there are still a few supplies needed before you start blending your Plastic Smoothie. Here’s the checklist for this DIY project:

There are a few tips and tricks that Flowalistik shares to make this project as affordable as possible. For starters, he recommends using an old blender if you have one handy. Obviously, once you start shredding plastic in it, you’re not going to want to use it for an actual smoothie afterwards.

When it comes to using failed 3D prints, you should break them down into small pieces before throwing them into the blender, reducing the damaged that the blades will incur. Additionally, due to the toxins in ABS and other material types, Flowalistik only used PLA filament for this project.

Plastic Smoothie: Putting it All Together

The first step to the Plastic Smoothie project is gathering and blending your leftover PLA. You can take this opportunity to decide which colors and textures you want to create. Once the recycled plastic is shredded up, you’ll lay it out on an oven tray and prepare to start baking. Flowalistik uses oven paper on the base of the tray, bending the corners to avoid any molten plastic from spilling over.

After experimenting a bit, the maker found that the most consistent results came about when melting medium and small plastic bits at 190-200 C for 20 – 25 minutes. Once the plastic scraps are melted together into a colorful sheet, you’ll need to remove it quickly and flatten it out in between the wood panels.

This pressing procedure has to be performed quickly, as the melted plastic will cool down quickly once it’s removed from the oven. Keep the oven paper on the plastic and add as much weight as you can onto the wood panels, and you’ll have a perfect sheet of recycled PLA.

Finally, Flowalistik uses an Epilog Laser Mini 18 40W laser cutter to cut the 3mm plastic panels. You can use the same settings as you would for a 3mm sheet of acrylic. The designer adds that he had to increase the power of the laser in order to make the engraving more apparent.

If you don’t have much experience with laser cutting, you might be wondering what you can make with this recycled plastic. Luckily, Flowalistik has shared a number of his own experimental models, including coasters, animal rings, spirographs, and a really impressive rocket ship.

You can learn more about the Plastic Smoothie project and the laser cutting process on Flowalistik’s Instructables post. If you want to continue supporting the designer and his intriguing projects, head on over to his Patreon page.

License: The text of “Weekend Project: Recycle Your Leftover Filament with a “Plastic Smoothie”” by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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