Materia Nova: helping 3D printing using recycled plastic a step further

Materia Nova, a partner in the TRANSFORM-CE project, is a technology and innovation research center with offices in Belgium and Germany. Materia Nova specialises in process development, material innovation, and smart, connected devices that serve a wide range of industries. Its research and development has a real and significant impact in the world.

With so much non-recyclable virgin plastic being produced and ending up in landfills or incinerators, Materia Nova is putting its efforts into designing and building a prototype that will use high grade single-use waste plastic to produce filaments for use in additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing. Through this process, the plastic waste can be used in a wide range of applications and turned into all sorts of new valuable recycled circular products. The prototype will initially be tested in the TRANSFORM-CE project by using pre-sorted plastic streams to establish the technical conditions for recycling different types of polymers. After testing and tweaking, Materia Nova and the TRANSFORM-CE project hope that it will be used widely.

As mentioned above, higher grade raw materials from household waste will be used, such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Particular secondary materials will also be tested for specific businesses. One example is polypropylene (PP) from medical prostheses manufacturers which can be turned into filaments and reused to produce new prostheses, these tests being already underway with a Belgian medical equipment production company. Materia Nova is also working with two companies to treat their plastic waste and send them back the recycled spools. The company will eventually also perform tests with acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), polylactic acid (PLA) and high impact polystyrene (HIPS) from its own production waste to enable the further recycling of a wide variety of polymers from various sources.

Materia Nova is one of two organisations in TRANSFORM-CE working on AM. TRANSFORM-CE is an alliance of public and private institutions in seven North West European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom) that is developing a circular economy for plastic waste in these countries. Three facilities have been established: the AM prototyping unit in Mons, Belgium; an intrusion extrusion moulding (IEM) facility at the Green Plastic Factory in Almere, the Netherlands; and an AM research and development centre that is part of Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK.

At present Materia Nova is still working on the technical aspects of its production, but it hopes that once the prototype has proven successful, it will be able to welcome interested manufacturers to its premises in Mons and fulfil orders for tailor-made recycled spools. Businesses can already feel free to contact Materia Nova to set up such projects, both in terms of R&D support and tailor-made production. With only about 30% of Europe’s plastic collected for recycling (2019), this is another step in the right direction of embedding circularity in Europe’s, and hopefully the world’s, economy.

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