Scrap plastic to 3-D printer stock

Scrap plastic to 3-D printer stock

By Dylan de Thomas, Resource Recycling

The future is coming to desktops and can be fueled by empty soda and milk bottles, among other scrap plastics.

If you paid any attention to last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, you likely read about TVs that were four times more high-definition than the one in your living room, tablet computers of all shapes and sizes – and the coming of the consumer-grade 3-D printer. That is to say, a printer that can print out 3-D objects instead of merely putting images of said objects on two-dimensional paper.

While the feedstock for all 3-D printers is not the same, the vast majority of these printers use a plastic resin of some kind, and new filament feedstock for these printers is predictably expensive. Which is where recycling comes in. The Filabot Personal Filament Maker is an attempt to both make that filament more affordable and also to make 3-D printing, itself, more sustainable.

The Kickstarter-funded project's flagship machine, the Filabot Reclaimer, is an open-source hardware kit that is, essentially, a desktop plastics recycling plant — grinding and extruding scrap plastic of different types. According to Tyler McNaney, the project organizer, the Filabot can process not just the aforementioned soda bottles (PET) and milk jugs (HDPE), but ABS, LDPE,nylon-101 and even PLA.

Along with the grinding and extruding assemblies, the machine comes with a spooling assembly with two different types of dies, so it can automatically spool different sizes (3mm and 1.75mm) of filament to be used in future 3-D printing. The Filabot also has controllable temperature settings to be able to handle the different meltpoints of the various resins.

McNaney's Kickstarter campaign for the machines raised over $30,000 and the first batch of Filabot orders are currently being filled. While McNaney has not said what the next step for the project is, the tech-inclined among us can build their own mini recycling plant, as McNaney has posted all instructions for the open-source project online.

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