One thing that many people wonder is what they should do with leftover PLA filament, or some ways that they can reuse it. I decided to write an article about how you can use your leftover PLA filament so you have some ideas on what you can do.
You can use your leftover PLA filament by printing smaller models that don’t need a lot of filament to create. Many people choose to use a 3D pen with filament to fix blemishes on models or even reattach a model to the build plate. Leftover PLA can also be recycled by taking it to a 3D printing store.
This is the basic answer, so keep reading to get more details on how to go about reusing leftover PLA filament.
What Should You Do With Leftover PLA Filament?
Here’s a list of things you can do with your leftover PLA filament.
- Print smaller models
- Fixing blemishes on finished prints
- Create artistic or functional models
- Recycling with filament extruders
- Recycling in 3D printing stores
1. Print Smaller Models
One way to make use of leftover PLA filament is to print smaller models. This allows you to make the best of the little filament you have left.
Here are some ideas of smaller models you can 3D print with leftover PLA:
- Toothbrush case
- Davinci Catapult Gift Card
- Loud and Compact Whistle for Keychain
- Fidget Cube
- Micro Single Fidget Spinner
- Indispensable Dispenser
One user stated that he 3D prints spinning finger rings as giveaways, with each ring just taking about 1m of filament to completely print them.
Another user stated that he has printed a few GoPro Wrenches, Soldering Jigs for a Raspberry Pi, and Escher Designs with leftover filaments since they all require little filament. The design files for these models were gotten from Thingiverse.
It’s recommended to have a filament sensor installed so you can change out filaments if they run out during one of these prints.
I’d recommend something like the Creality Filament Runout Sensor which is compatible with various Creality 3D printers, or you can find one specific for your machine.
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There’s an interesting contest that was run by Printables where users designed STL files based on having the last 70 meters of filament left. They had some great ideas such as:
- Cable labels
- Book-style SD card case
- Collar stays
2. Fixing Blemishes on Prints with a 3D Pen
Using leftover PLA to fix blemishes on prints with a 3D pen is another way to reuse them.
This is because 3D pens require little filament for operation. Simply insert the filament into the 3D pen and place the tip of the pen on the area of the print you want to fix. Once you have applied the filament to the area, you can sand it for a better outlook.
You can purchase the MYNT3D Super 3D Pen from Amazon.
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One user stated that he keeps his leftover filament for his printing pen. He said it works great at fixing prints when they have blemishes or failure.
Another user stated that she got a 3D pen and uses her leftover filament to weld pieces together. However, she is still working on getting smoother lines but it holds really well.
Another user said that setting the temperature of the pen was pretty confusing but overall, it has been working reliably for him. He also said that he has experienced minimal clogs on the pen and the lowest speed doesn’t really move the filament.
Although he loves how he’s able to use a small amount of filament from his printer spools and touch up any of his prints that have blemishes.
He was also able to save a failing 3D print by “welding” the curling raft back onto the heat bed with the pen.
One other user also stated that the pen is very comfortable to use since he can easily adjust the temperature and flow rate. He works in a 3D print lab and he often uses the pen to alter prints or fuse prints and it is very effective.
It is also useful for drawing in weird places for prototyping. He said it is a must-have for anyone who does 3D printing or prototyping regularly.
Check out this video from MatterHackers on how to reuse 3D printing filament scraps.
3. Creating Artistic or Functional Models
You can also create art pieces with leftover PLA filament. This is subject to your level of creativity or how well you can bring your imagination to life. For example, you can create unique models by heating leftover PLA filaments placed in a silicon mold and allowing it to sit until it cools off.
Also, you can use leftover filaments to create wireframe models by cutting and joining small pieces of filaments to create unique art pieces to decorate your living or workspace.
You can also create functional models from leftover PLA materials like guitar picks, phone cases, jewelry, and so on.
When combining PLA filaments of different colors, it is important to ensure that the PLA filaments have the same heating properties. This is because different brands of filaments may not melt at the same temperature.
An interesting thing you can also do is use a 3D Printed Filament Welder to join your leftover PLA filaments together. Check out the video below to see this in action.
One user stated that rather than using failed prints to make new filaments, it is a much simpler process to melt them down into sheets of plastic that can be used to create various items.
Here is a video from Make Anything that demonstrates how to recycle leftover/failed PLA filament into artistic/functional models.
4. Recycling with Filament Extruders
Another way to use reuse PLA filaments is to recycle them using a filament extruder, though this is not recommended for beginners and the equipment can be costly.
You can convert the leftover PLA filament into pellets and then send them into the filament extruder machine.
Some people will collect filaments of different colors and place them into the filament extruder to get unique filament colors after it is processed.
While the cost of the filament extruder may be pretty steep, it can help save costs in the long run if you run a big operation or print farm of some kind. This filament extruder uses efficient heating techniques to lower the power consumption needed to run the device.
You can purchase the Filabot Filament Extruder from Amazon and begin recycling your leftover PLA filament.
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One user who purchased the device stated that it is a very nice product that will pay for itself in no time. He said while he’s had a couple of issues, the customer service took care of it and got the machine back on track.
He also stated that the product works very well and maintains a tolerance of +/- 0.02mm, but not at full speed. Although it takes some experimentation to get the settings just right.
He wished there was a forum for people to help each other with tips and tricks when running the filament extruder. He recommended investing in a small clip-on fan and a food dehydrator to keep your plastic dry before you extrude.
5. Recycling in 3D Printing Stores
You can also recycle your PLA filament in stores or companies that offer recycling services. These stores collect leftover PLA filaments from users and give either brand-new or recycled filament spools in return.
This is to reduce waste and promote sustainability in the 3D printing industry. Also, some companies, offer discounts on filament purchases for any leftover filament material you bring in to recycle.
In most cases, these companies have a minimum threshold they can recycle at a time. Also, you may need to ship your leftover filament to the company’s facility or a drop-off location.
One user stated that he sends his leftover PLA scraps to a company called Printerior and they offer discounts on new filaments if you send in enough scraps.
Another user stated that he sent out his failed prints/leftover materials to RecyclingFabrik, though this is in Germany. They accept PLA, PETG, and empty spools, then they provide discounts when buying new filament.
It sounds like you have to send a decent amount of filament in order to get something in return, but you can find similar places that do this with an online search.
I’d recommend looking for any local 3D printing stores to see if they have some suggestions on what you can do in terms of recycling your filament.