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A recyclebot (or RecycleBot) is an open-source hardware device for converting waste plastic into filament for open-source 3D printers like the RepRap.[1] Making DIY 3D printer filament at home is both less costly and better for the environment than purchasing conventional 3D printer filament.[2][3][4] In following the RepRap tradition there are recyclebot designs that use mostly 3-D printable parts.[5]

Motivation and benefits[edit]

RepRap 3D printers have been shown to reduce costs for consumers by offsetting purchases that can be printed.[6][7][8][9] The RepRap's plastic feedstock is one area where cost can still be reduced. In 2014, professor Joshua Pearce pointed out that "Filament is retailing for between $36 and $50 a kilogram and you can produce your own filament for 10 cents a kilogram if you use recycled plastic"[10] The device can thus further enhance RepRap affordability by reducing operating costs.[11] In addition, by reducing prosumers' reliance on purchased products, the RepRap and the recyclebot have made it feasible for 3D printing to be used for small-scale manufacturing to aid sustainable development.[12][13] It has been postulated that recycled filament production could also offer an alternative income source by the Ethical Filament Foundation[14][15] or as a form of "fair trade filament".[16] It has also been shown to improve the energy payback time of even known green energy technologies like solar photovoltaics.[17]


The RecycleBot is an open-source hardware project – thus its plans are freely available on the Internet.


The history of the RecycleBot was largely derived from the work on the RepRap Wiki under GNU Free Documentation License1.2.[20]

The first recyclebot was developed by students at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.[21][22][23] This design was a proof of concept and was hand-powered, and so had a small ecological footprint, but did not create filament of high enough quality to be useful for 3D printers. The design for the waste plastic extruder (Recyclebot v2.0 and v2.1) developed at Queen's University Canada and Michigan Tech was heavily influenced by the Web4Deb extruder, which extrudes HDPE for use as a growth medium in aquaponics.[24] This design for the recyclebot was developed, tested and published in the peer-reviewed rapid prototyping literature.[25] This device proved viable for producing 3D printing filament. The Recyclebot v2.2 is being developed by the Michigan Tech in Open Sustainability Technology Research Group.[26]

Many makers or DIY enthusiasts have made various versions of RecycleBots. The most notable is the Lyman filament extruder. Lyman, a retired engineer, won a design contest to make a low-cost 3D filament fabrication system.[27] As of 2014, there were many types of recyclebots, many of which are at the early stages of commercialization. Recyclebot technology has been applied to hangprinters to allow for fused particle fabrication of large prints without first having to form filament.[28]

Futurist speculation[edit]

Jeremy Rifkin has hypothesized that such recycling with recyclebots and distributed production with 3D printing will lead to a zero marginal cost society.[29] The science-fiction author, Bruce Sterling wondered in Wired if recyclebots and 3D printers might be used to turn waste into guns.[30] Recyclebots can provide a new method of recycling.[31]


  1. ^ Baechler, Christian; DeVuono, Matthew; Pearce, Joshua M. (2013). "Distributed Recycling of Waste Polymer into RepRap Feedstock". Rapid Prototyping Journal. 19 (2): 118–125. doi:10.1108/13552541311302978. S2CID 15980607.
  2. ^ Kreiger, M.A.; Mulder, M.L.; Glover, A.G.; Pearce, J. M. (2014). "Life Cycle Analysis of Distributed Recycling of Post-consumer High Density Polyethylene for 3-D Printing Filament". Journal of Cleaner Production. 70: 90–96. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2014.02.009.
  3. ^ The importance of the Lyman Extruder, Filamaker, Recyclebot and Filabot to 3D printing Archived 18 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine – VoxelFab, 2013.
  4. ^ Kreiger, M.; Anzalone, G. C.; Mulder, M. L.; Glover, A.; Pearce, J. M (2013). "Distributed Recycling of Post-Consumer Plastic Waste in Rural Areas". MRS Proceedings. 1492: 91–96. doi:10.1557/opl.2013.258. S2CID 18303920.
  5. ^ Woern, Aubrey L.; et al. (October 2018). "RepRapable Recyclebot: Open source 3-D printable extruder for converting plastic to 3-D printing filament". HardwareX. 4: e00026. doi:10.1016/j.ohx.2018.e00026. ISSN 2468-0672.
  6. ^ B.T. Wittbrodt, A.G. Glover, J. Laureto, G.C. Anzalone, D. Oppliger, J.L. Irwin, J.M. Pearce (2013), Life-cycle economic analysis of distributed manufacturing with open-source 3-D printers, Mechatronics, 23 (2013), pp. 713–726. open access
  7. ^ Study: At-home 3-D printing could save consumers 'thousands' – CNN, 2013
  8. ^ Printing Keychains and Shower Heads: 3-D Printing Goes Beyond the Lab – ABC News
  9. ^ A 3-D Printer Can Pay For Itself In Less Than A Year – Popular Science, 2013
  10. ^ Turning old plastic into 3D printer filament is greener than conventional recycling – 3Ders, 2014
  11. ^ Study: At-home 3-D printing could save consumers 'thousands' – CNN, 2013
  12. ^ 3-D Printing of Open Source Appropriate Technologies for Self-Directed Sustainable Development
  13. ^ DJ Pangburn. 2014.How 3D Printers Are Boosting Off-The-Grid, Underdeveloped Communities - MotherBoard
  14. ^ http://techfortrade.org/our-initiatives/3d4d-challenge/the-ethical-filament-foundation/ Tech for Trade – Ethical Filament Foundation
  15. ^ Charity Targets 3D Printing’s Plastic Waste Problem With Standards For An Ethical Alternative 7 November 2013 by Natasha Lomas, Tech Crunch, https://techcrunch.com/2013/11/07/ethical-additive-manufacturing/
  16. ^ Feeley, S. R.; Wijnen, B.; Pearce, J. M. (2014). "Evaluation of Potential Fair Trade Standards for an Ethical 3-D Printing Filament". Journal of Sustainable Development. 7 (5): 1–12. doi:10.5539/jsd.v7n5p1.
  17. ^ Shan Zhong, S. et al. Energy Payback Time of a Solar Photovoltaic Powered Waste Plastic Recyclebot System. Recycling 2017, 2(2), 10; doi: 10.3390/recycling2020010
  18. ^ "RecycleBot v2.2 by jpearce".
  19. ^ "RecycleBot v2.3 Controls by jpearce".
  20. ^ "Recyclebot - RepRap".
  21. ^ Burgess, Phil (5 August 2010). "Recyclebot digests milk jugs to feed MakerBot". hackaday.com/. hackaday.
  22. ^ Duann (3 August 2010). "RecycleBot: Greening the MakerBot". The Shapeways Blog. shapeways.
  23. ^ Pettis, Bre (3 August 2010). "Recyclebot makes HDPE for your MakerBot from Milk Jugs!". makerbot.com blog. makerbot.
  24. ^ Web4Deb's blog.
  25. ^ Baechler, Christian; DeVuono, Matthew; Pearce, Joshua M. (2013). "Distributed Recycling of Waste Polymer into RepRap Feedstock". Rapid Prototyping Journal. 19 (2): 118–125. doi:10.1108/13552541311302978. S2CID 15980607.
  26. ^ "Category:MOST - Appropedia: The sustainability wiki".
  27. ^ Harry McCracken (4 March 2013). "How an 83-Year-Old Inventor Beat the High Cost of 3D Printing". Time.
  28. ^ Rattan, Ravneet S.; Nauta, Nathan; Romani, Alessia; Pearce, Joshua M. (1 March 2023). "Hangprinter for large scale additive manufacturing using fused particle fabrication with recycled plastic and continuous feeding". HardwareX. 13: e00401. doi:10.1016/j.ohx.2023.e00401. ISSN 2468-0672. PMC 9930197. PMID 36818952.
  29. ^ Jeremy Rifkin, Zero Marginal Cost Society, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.
  30. ^ 3D Printed gun moving from sinister joke to sinister business model By Bruce Sterling – Wired – Beyond the Beyond
  31. ^ Baltodano, S. (2013). RISE. http://www.mme.fiu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/F13-OR-T-4.pdf