There’s a new filament brand in town: Refil. Their filaments are made from recycled plastics. At the moment they offer black ABS (from recycled car dashboards) and PET (from recycled drinks bottles), with more colors and materials to follow soon. When we attended a presentation by one of the founders, he gave us samples of both filament types and we were eager to see if this stuff was any good.
One of the main problems in any recycling project is that the source material is usually full of contaminants, additives and impurities. Refil appears to have solved this problem, using a combination of pickiness (only using RoHS/REACH-compliant source materials) and technology (working with industry partners from the recycling and processing areas). The result are filaments that look very good “on the roll”, indistinguishable from virgin material. Because the filament is made on very high-quality, industrial extruders, filament roundness and diameter is as constant as that of any other commercially produced filament. In keeping with the recycling philosophy, the spools are made of recycled cardboard, which is a nice touch.
So it looks good, but how does it print?
We tried printing with the Refil PET filament using our regular PET printer settings (220ºC extruder, 60ºC bed). Right from the start the results were very good, basically the same as what we got with virgin PET filament. After some small test objects we decided to try something more challenging: a hollow Celtic Skull. We wanted it as transparent as possible so we did not use any infill. This did cause a few problems in some areas of the print, but nothing too serious. More importantly, the filament bridged very well.
Up next was Refil’s black ABS. We had less of this than of the PET so we were not able to try anything really large. This was a pity because one of the usual problems with ABS is warping and cracking (delaminating) on larger prints. We’ve had this problem with different brands of ABS and we expect Refil ABS to be no different. That said, on the smaller prints that we tried we had no problems with warping or cracking at all. Using our regular ABS setup (BuildTak as the bed surface at 90ºC and an extrusion temperature of 225ºC), all of our prints with Refil ABS worked. The largest piece we tried was this Darth Vader head, scaled down to a height of about 5 cm.
We printed this piece without supports, so the front brim of the helmet is not as smooth as it should be (but after removing all the supports from the PET skull, we had enough of that for a while). The detail on this print is quite good and there is no warping or cracking.
No ABS filament review would be complete without some acetone vapour smoothing. Darth Vader got the usual treatment and the result is nice and shiny.
All in all we were quite pleased with the performance of the Refil filaments. Both the PET and the black ABS perform as well as premium, virgin-material filaments that we tried.
Pricing of the Refil filaments is comparable to that of premium-quality, virgin filaments. Refil PET is a bit on the pricey side when compared to the Colorfabb XT and the new Form Futura HDGlass offerings, but still a lot more affordable than Taulman T-glase, for example. The Refil black ABS is in the same price range as Form Futura’s Easyfil ABS and given the print results, we think it could be a nice, more environmentally-conscious alternative (as long as the color you need is black).
With these first two filaments, Refil have shown that using recycled materials does not have to mean that the quality of the product is going to be inferior. We think that these products show great promise and we are curious to see what they will come up with next.