3D printing gives a new life to used tires

Used car tires are among the largest and most problematic sources of waste in the world. An enormous volume of tires are manufactured each year, but these are not biodegradable. Moreover, tires contain a number of components that are ecologically problematic, such as the embedded metal found in steel belt radial tires. Fortunately, recycled tires can be a viable material for 3D printing.

It is estimated that 259 million tires are discarded annually in the U.S. alone.

The same characteristics that make waste tires problematic, their cheap availability, bulk, and resilience, also make them attractive targets for recycling. In the investigation of alternative uses of tires out of use, the production of filaments for 3D printing offers qualities similar to the original product in terms of strength and flexibility.

As an example and first step, the company Emerging Objects has developed Rubber Pouff, which is 3D printed out of our recycled rubber tires and can be used as a low seat, a foot stool or a playful object. It is printed in eight parts that are adhered together to make one strong piece.

Emerging objects has developed a formula for using recycled rubber content in 3D printing using tires that are cryogenically reduced to a micronized rubber powder. Source: Emerging Objects.

Besides, the same material for the Rubber Pouff can be used for many possible applications in the building industry. The company envisions to use this material to make 3D printed outdoor furniture and as 3D printed panels for exterior building components such as wall panels that can be used as for acoustic and sound dampening purposes.

On the other hand, the company TreeD, Italian producer of filaments for 3D printing, through its new material called Pneumatique, and the Swiss company Tire Recycling Solutions (TRS) are also applying this technology to a wide range of products, including printing small-scale tires for R/C cars or vehicle models, producing shock-absorbing and highly supportive soles for shoes and much more.

pneumatique
The final result, thanks to the matte finish of the filament and its deep gray-black color, as well as its slightly rough and non-stick texture, are a faithful replica of the authentic tires of any car.

In this way, it responds to the demand of manufacturers and end users, who seek to introduce sustainable or ecological solutions in this sector. Alternative applications like these represent a saving of 20kWh energy and 40% CO2 emissions per kilogram of micronized rubber from used tires.

Currently recycling practices still require dissemination a lot. That is why Used Tires Treatment (TNU, for its acronym in Spanish), the Collective System of Management of Tires Out of Use in which the main distributors and importers of Spain and non-profit society are grouped, continues with its campaign of information and awareness about the recycling and treatment of used tires. Under the title “Did you know what …?” It brings to the attention of the general public all that is behind the recycling process of tires out of use, and how they are transformed into the very diverse applications they have in our daily lives.

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