There are an ever-increasing number of universities and other higher educational institutions that currently have the goal to enhance and educate students on the state of 3D printing, but only a select few have disrupted the industry as much as the Michigan Technological University. Last year, researchers from the university headed breakthrough developments for 3D printing with nerve tissue, while professor Dr. Joshua Pearce launched a course to teach undergraduate engineering students how to build open source 3D printers. More recently, Michigan Tech researchers have been developing solar-powered 3D printers, and lately seem to be directing their overall attention towards making 3D printing technology more environmentally friendly.
The proof that Michigan Tech has been looking to develop more sustainable additive manufacturing processes certainly exists outside of their research on solar-powered 3D printing. In fact, one group of students have recently launched a business to manufacture and sell recycled and biodegradable filaments. The company, which is called Superior Filament, was started by a group of four Michigan Tech students who have been producing plastic filaments since 2015. Their main objective is to promote environmental sustainability in 3D printing, aiming to reuse discarded plastic pollutants instead of creating more.
“3D printing is so young and such new technology, we have an opportunity to change the course in which how this revolution is being fueled,” said Cedric Kennedy, one of Superior Filament’s co-founders. “At this point in time, when we’re preventing more plastics from entering our ocean, we don’t only just want to prevent it, we also want to help eliminate the plastic that’s already there.”
The method that they’re developing will transform our everyday plastic waste, such as soda bottles, water bottles, milk jugs and many others, into high-quality 3D printing filament. Though not all of their available filaments are 100% environmentally friendly, the ultimate goal of offering recycled filament for a fraction of the average price seems near in sight. Superior Filament is already offering rPET (available for pre-sale at $24.95), which is made from household items such as soda bottles and water bottles, and rABS ($29.95), a spin on the commonly used material made from the same plastic as car battery cases and Legos.
Both of these filaments can be purchased on the Superior Filament website, and are scheduled to ship out to customers in July 2016. In the near future, the young company plans to release rPLA, which is similar to PLA but will be made from post-consumer waste, as well as rHDPE (recycled high-density polyethylene), which is the same type of plastic used to produce milk jugs.
Thus far, Superior Filament seems to have a popular idea on their hands, having already won $18,000 from various business pitch competitions, which they’ve utilized on equipment costs. The Michigan Tech student team is ultimately hoping to raise an additional $10,000, which they plan to use on purchasing an office space to build into an adequate manufacturing facility. To help with this service expansion, Superior Filament plans on launching a crowdfunding campaign this upcoming June.
The company is currently made up of seven Michigan Tech students, including Kennedy, Aubrey Woern, Josh Krugh, Amber Varacalli, Ryan Oshe, John Klotz, and Natalie Pohlman. Alongside the resources provided by their university, the student-run startup was especially supported by Michigan Tech’s Associate Professor of Management, Dr. Andre Laplume, as well as the Pearce Research Group and the Open Source Enterprise. As 3D printing technology continues to expand and become more widely used throughout the already fragile planet, it’s crucial that we develop environmentally sound and sustainable solutions to help the industry grow. And for that, I applaud the Superior Filament team for keeping Mother Nature in mind as they continue to innovate for the greater good of additive manufacturing. Discuss further in the Superior 3D Printing Filament forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source: Upper Michigan Source]