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Recyclability of additively manufactured bio-based composites

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Composites Part B: Engineering
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As the flexibility, efficiency, and application space of additive manufacturing continues to grow, many have begun to investigate more sustainable feedstocks as well as options for the end of life of additively manufactured parts. This study examines the effects of mechanical recycling on additively manufactured parts from bio-based feedstock. Articles were printed on the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) system at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory using poly (lactic acid)/wood flour (PLA/WF) pellets. These parts were shredded and granulated, and the granulate was fed directly back into the BAAM system for re-printing, skipping the costly and energy-intensive steps of extrusion and pelletization. The chemical, mechanical, thermal, and rheological changes to PLA/WF before and after recycling were investigated. Additionally, the energy savings from directly printing granulate on the BAAM system without extrusion and pelletization is reported. It is shown that PLA/WF is an excellent candidate for recycling of large format additively manufactured parts, and value of these parts can be reclaimed while saving cost and energy through mechanical recycling.