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New coding response to 3-D printing challenge

United States – ‘The centralised paradigm of both manufacturing and recycling is being challenged by the rise of 3-D printing,’ according to researchers at Michigan Technological University in the USA. A growing number of individuals will produce their own polymer products and an even larger fraction of polymer waste could evade recycling because it has not been coded.

Polylactic acid (PLA) and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) are the two types of plastics most commonly used for 3-D printing. While the first is known for its biodegradability, the latter is mainly a hard plastic. Dumping these essentially different plastics together with many other types makes it difficult to reuse the material in the end, lead researcher Joshua Pearce explains.

In response, the Michigan team has developed a new resin code identification system inspired by one in China. The labels can now be woven into the design itself, only revealing themselves when light shines through the product. Also, a broken tool can be cracked open to find out the code number.

The system is expandable so as to accommodate future innovations in printing and plastics.

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