Getting To Know: Filamentive
Continuing our exploration of plastic recycling in the 3D printing industry, we spoke to Ravi Toor, CEO and founder of Filamentive.
At Filaments.directory we've been increasingly interested in the role 3D printing plays in the plastic recycling ecosystem - we reviewed the plastic recycling process and then spoke to Filabot, an innovative solution for at-home recycling.
Now we turn our attentions to a slightly different solution from filament producer Filamentive. To find out more about how Filamentive are tackling the issue of plastic recycling, we had a chat with Ravi Toor, CEO and founder of Filamentive.
Ravi was studying Environment and Business at university when he first came across the 3D printing industry. Originally he focused on 3D printers themselves but quickly became aware that there was a serious lack of recycled products being produced in Europe. Whilst there were some available, the quality was poor and wasn't comparable to filaments made from virgin polymer.
'Whilst recycled filament existed prior to Filamentive, it was typically of a low quality, and so I wanted to find a way to ensure recycled plastics than still produce a high quality filament'
Through various funding opportunities Ravi was able to finance research into recycled polymers but soon realised that producing their own polymer wasn't a feasible option. It was from this realisation that Ravi decided that instead of producing his own polymer, he could use other people's leftover polymer. So began the story of Filamentive's recycled filaments.
'Filamentive exists to pioneer sustainability in 3D printing and achieve high levels of product quality and customer satisfaction'
How do the recycled filaments work?
Filamentive specialises in producing filament from what is termed 'post-industrial waste'. Post-industrial waste is simply the material that is left over from industrial processes. In this case, we're talking about industrial plastic extrusion.
Nearly all manufacturing processes produce waste to some extent and the advantage of this waste is that it meets several standards to be effective. Importantly, the waste is homogeneous (to find out why this is important you can read our article on how plastic recycling works) so producing quality filament from it is cost effective and efficient.
To ensure that the filament produced from this post-industrial waste is high quality, Filamentive partners with highly trusted extrusion partners and batch test all products - this is why they're able to achieve a satisfaction rating of over 95% using what other's have decided is just waste.
Technical challenges of recycled filaments
There are some technical challenges of using post-industrial waste as raw material for filaments. The primary challenge was that initially Filamentive was limited with the colours that could be produced. This is because dark materials are inherently easier to recycle than lighter colours.
This problem was overcome with a bit of flexibility: by combining post-industrial waste with some virgin polymer Filamentive is able to produce an entire colour range and can still achieve up to 90% recycled content on their coloured PLA filaments.
'As the 3D printing materials market grows as does the number of companies offering similar products, however we feel competition is healthy as it encourages to innovate and we are fortunate to be growing rapidly due to our focus on sustainability and our esteemed reputation'
So what's next for Filamentive? They are continuing to expand into more and more materials to recycle through industrial partnerships. Filamentive are particularly keen to expand waste collection to countries that do not have recycling rates high enough to meet international standards.
Filamentive are also looking at expanding into post-consumer recycling as well as post-industrial. Post-consumer recycling would involve the collection and recycling of plastics that have reached the end of their consumer life, for example using plastic bottles to collect and recycle PET.
Ravi also noted that whilst they are working to re-purpose and recycle as much plastic as possible it is not only about producing recycled filaments. There are lots of other ways to innovate, such as using cardboard spools instead of plastic.
'We are currently working on new materials, including 100% recycled filaments based on post-consumer waste as well as developing a range of engineering-grade materials for industrial applications'
It is really interesting to see the different ways that 3D printing is adapting to try and tackle the issue of plastic recycling. Filamentive's solution to recycling is a world apart from the likes of Filabot however they both have similar goals. We think that Filamentive's approach of collecting and recycling waste at the industrial source is great and look forward to seeing what they will do next.