In March 2018, ARMOR responded to the call for projects launched by the ADEME environment and energy agency, named ORPLAST (Objective: Recycling of Plastics). Lasting 3 years, the objective of the project is to provide financial support for plasturgists and manufacturers that convert raw materials into products incorporating recycled plastics among the materials they use. The additive manufacturing division of the French group, KIMYA, therefore became part of the adventure through its FIL’REC project, for the FDM/FFF additive manufacturing market. Two years later, it is time to issue an update.
It is a few years now since the ARMOR Group commenced its additive manufacturing activities. It all began with the production of its first filament, the PS OWA, designed using recycled yogurt pots. The company quickly decided to accelerate its recycling developments on a systematic and industrial scale. It, therefore, made a proposal for the ORPLAST project, with the aim of offering 5 new filaments made from recycled raw materials. After the R&D phase, the French company decided to add the following raw materials to its base filaments: PLA, TPU, PET, PP, and PS.
During the first two years of the project, the team worked on various industrialization plans for recycled materials
- The first step consisted of conducting a study of the literature and of the sourcing possibilities. In practice, reliable sources of high-quality materials are extremely difficult to obtain.
- A suite of transformation tests was then performed on the recycled raw materials and on 3D filaments.
- The team subsequently characterized and printed filaments incorporating these recycled materials.
- Lastly, industrial pilot runs were carried out followed by commercialization.
Since the start of the Orplast 2 project, Kimya has transformed 8.7 tons of PLA recycled raw materials. The pilot stage has been validated and the product has been on sale since January 2019. The filament contains at least 97% recycled materials and is very easy to use in the printing process. It is especially suitable for producing prototypes and a wide variety of decorative objects. It is also highly valued in agriculture, industry and architecture. Six grades are currently being marketed: the PLA-R Natural, White, Grey, Black, Red and Blue. Nicolas Morand, RDI & Industrialization Manager, states:
“Our industrial strategy is to switch 100% of our PLA requirements from virgin material to recycled material.”
This material was marketed for the first time in December 2019. All the testing has shown that its printability and mechanical properties are identical to virgin TPU. Since the launch of the project, 300kg of recycled TPU raw material has been transformed. Regarding its specific properties, the TPU-R offers high elasticity, resistance against abrasion and wear, a high level of flexibility, and excellent impact resistance. It is a 100% recycled material. It has Shore A hardness of 90 with packing density of the printed part at 100%.
Kimya launched the HIPS-R in January 2020. It offers mechanical properties and printability identical to virgin polystyrene. It is obtained from the waste of mandrels used in the production of the ARMOR Group’s thermal transfer rolls. The team has currently transformed over 300kg of HIPS recycled raw materials. It offers a high level of impact resistance and good surface quality. It has a low density and is soluble in D-Limonene, making an ideal printing medium.
The next steps of the project
There are only another two filaments to be marketed in order to meet the project objectives established two years ago. The team is currently working on a PET-R, based on polyethylene terephthalate for its chemical resistance, low shrinkage, and high level of dimensional stability. Nicolas Morand concludes:
“Our ultimate objective is to use only recycled raw materials in the PLA, PET, TPU, PS and PP based filaments. With the benefit of the positive experience we have obtained, we would also like to deploy a second field of development by working with engineering and high-performance materials.”
One thing is certain: this project has enabled Kimya to accelerate its recycling approach and extend it to more materials. The additive manufacturing business of ARMOR therefore fully applies the group’s values of innovation and commitment.