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The production of plastic has grown exponentially over the past few decades and with it the amount of plastic waste leaking in the environment, where it fragments into micro- and nanoplastics. This problematic situation stresses the need for increased plastic collection, recycling and reuse rates. Extrusion-based additive manufacturing (AM) and especially fused filament fabrication (FFF) offer an efficient and effective method to reuse and upcycle recycled plastic. This study focuses on poly(ethylene terephthalate) (PET), which has a broad application window and its recycling is therefore environmentally and economically favorable and sustainable. Therefore, this study involves the thermal and mechanical behavior of recycled PET after extrusion and 3D printing. The extrusion parameters are optimized by performing a complete physico-chemical and thermal analysis of the obtained filaments and they were compared with commercial virgin and recycled PET. Moreover, the influence of the applied processing conditions on the degree of crystallinity and mechanical properties is investigated. The filaments are then used for FFF, where various printing parameters are altered to obtain the optimum printing conditions (i.e. printing temperature, the build plate temperature, fan cooling and printing directions). The effect of the degree of crystallinity of semi-crystalline PET is investigated via altered printing parameters, showing superior mechanical properties for an increasing degree of crystallinity. To verify the portability of the obtained optimized print parameters, two different FFF printers are used. The use of recycled PET as feedstock for FFF supports the efforts for improving the sustainability of plastics by valorizing PET waste, and prolonging the lifecycle of PET.
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