5562.001 Accelerating Additive in DoD Applications of High-Performance Recycled Polymers

IC3D processes waste polymers into granules to then produce filament for 3D printing.


The additive manufacturing (AM) industry today is highly reliant on virgin thermoplastics, which contributes to global resource usage and plastic waste. However, utilizing recycled materials has challenges. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is one of the most commonly recycled materials, but its usage in AM has been complex. Its semi-crystalline nature can lead to warping, so strict control over the printing and ambient temperatures is required to maintain part quality and dimensional accuracy. There is a need to develop a viable recycled PET (rPET) for 3D printing that can be utilized more easily.


This project aims to create a cost-effective, sustainable supply chain for rPET suitable for fused filament fabrication (FFF) 3D printing while ensuring it meets the functional performance requirements of the Department of Defense (DoD). This initiative involves a comprehensive approach, including the development and optimization of the material and its supply chain, the fine-tuning of 3D printing profiles, extensive material testing, and the manufacturing of demonstrative parts for evaluation. Furthermore, it includes a thorough “cradle-to-cradle” lifecycle analysis to assess the sustainability of the process and material, culminating in the creation of a playbook designed to guide the qualification of DoD components.

Technical Approach

IC3D is developing and testing various rPET formulations to ensure they are suitable for 3D printing by enhancing the material’s printability and mechanical attributes to minimize warping. Concurrently, Harrisburg University is optimizing 3D printing parameters for the rPET through a comprehensive design of experiments (DOE). The Ohio State University’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) is conducting extensive material characterization and mechanical testing, providing critical feedback for material refinement and print parameter adjustments. This collaborative effort extends to demonstrating the practical application of the optimized rPET materials by 3D printing selected parts for the Army and showcasing their functionality in real-world scenarios. IC3D is also leading a lifecycle assessment to gauge the environmental impact of employing rPET in AM, reinforcing the project’s commitment to sustainability. 3Degrees is playing a crucial role in data management, ensuring the orderly storage and accessibility of project data for ongoing and future research initiatives.

Project Participants

Project Principal

Other Project Participants

  • 3Degrees
  • Harrisburg University of Science and Technology
  • The Ohio State University

Public Participants

  • U.S. Department of Defense

Project Summary

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