3D Printing

3D Printing

3D Printing has relatively reduced environmental impacts with more efficient supply and material flows[1] in the fabrication and manufacturing realms. However, as 3D printing has become more democratised and accessible, more stakeholders, suppliers and manufacturers are involved in the industry[2].

As a user, the plastic filament is a key variable in energy consumption and waste produced. Plastic filament begins from base materials, which needs to be created and sourced by manufacturers. They then extrude the filament from the base material in large factories before finally shipping it to users (usually across the world). Energy is being consumed and waste is generated at every step.

Below is a breakdown of the filaments that we stock in terms of embodied and operational Carbon.

PLA (Polylactic Acid)

PLA is as NExT Lab's primary material on the 3D Print Farm and on Open Access Machines.

PLA is a thermo-bioplastic commonly advertised as biodegradable. It is made from sugars in maize and sugarcane and is non-toxic and generally environmentally friendly. While it is biodegradable, it requires very specific environmental conditions.

Polyterra PLA (by Polymaker)

NExT Lab stocks Polymaker's Polyterra PLA. Made from Naturework's Ingeo PLA which is produced from renewable plant resources in the United States, spooled onto recyclable cardboard spools in China, and shipped to the NExT Lab. Polymaker plants one tree in Australia for each spool sold, through One Tree Planted.


4 KG of carbon / KG of filament (Numbers provided by Polymaker)

Embodied carbon from manufactering each box of Polyterra


1 KG of carbon / KG of filament (Calculated by NExT Lab)

Costs of transport from factory to NExT Lab


0.4 KG of carbon / Hour of printing (Calculated by NExT Lab)

Running a printer at the NExT Lab


600 KG of carbon / KG of filament (22 KG / filament KG / year figure provided by Polymaker)

Estimated from 10 years of tree maturation & standard total of a 30-year period of carbon offsetting

Circular Economy Filament

As we build out this resource, we will keep you posted!

NExT Lab is researching into completely recycling filament (currently PLA only). Below is an example of one idealised version of this process, where once your 3d prints have served their purpose, they can be shredded and re-extruded into recycled spools.

3D Print Collection Point

As the first step, NExT Lab has a 3D Print collection point. Once you have finished using your 3D prints, drop them off at the NExT Lab for us to sort.

One of the main challenges in recycling 3D prints, particularly for the purpose of producing recycled 3D print filament, is that the final quality and printing properties is on the composition of the filament. Many filaments are not traceable, they do not publish their complete chemical composition, which may result in less-than-desirable results when recycling.

For now, we will only be accepting the following types of 3D prints: Please let us know which type you are giving NExT Lab.


[1] Huang, Samuel H., Peng Liu, Abhiram Mokasdar, and Liang Hou. “Additive Manufacturing and Its Societal Impact: A Literature Review.” The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology 67, no. 5–8 (July 2013): 1191–1203. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00170-012-4558-5.

[2] Suárez, Luis, and Manuel Domínguez. 2020. “Sustainability and Environmental Impact of Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) Technologies.” International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology 106 (3/4): 1267–79. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00170-019-04676-0.

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