Dr. Nicole Zander, ARL, demonstrates equipment for Capt. Anthony Molnar, U.S. Marine Corps. [Image: Jhi Scott/US Army]Every branch of the US military has been exploring 3D printing for a number of applications, finding it to be a useful technology for everything from day to day uses to battlefield operations.
Now the Marine Corps and the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) are working together to improve both self-reliance and sustainability through 3D printing. The research team is examining the recycling of waste plastic, such as that from water bottles, milk jugs and yogurt containers, to make 3D printer filament.
Dr. Zander and Marine Corps Captain Anthony Molnar have been working to create 100 percent recycled filament from PET, using bottles and other plastics without any chemical modification or additives. They’re also working on creating filament from other recycled plastics and reinforced filaments.
While PET is widely used for many applications, it isn’t frequently used for 3D printing because of its high melting temperature, water absorption and issues with crystallinity. According to Dr. Zander, however, the recycled PET is a viable new feedstock for 3D printing. The mechanical properties of the parts 3D printed with the material were comparable to those printed with commercial filament. Small parts were 3D printed for evaluation, as well as several larger long lead item military parts.
thumbnail courtesy of 3dprint.com