The ability to 3D print objects of all shapes, and many sizes, has enabled individuals to take at least some control of their lives away from the large manufacturers and corporations out there. We can now become the makers of what we consumer. 3D printing has been touted as a way to cut back on waste. Additive manufacturing is clearly a much better fabrication method than that of subtractive manufacturing. These new processes are certainly saving materials for the large manufacturers out there who may be printing in metals, or other materials instead of using milling techniques. For those of us who use ordinary FDM-based desktop 3D printers to make trinkets and little doo-dads, let’s be honest, we are probably causing more plastic waste than we were prior to purchasing these machines. How many 3D prints have you had which have failed and you simply end up throwing away? Half of the stuff you print, you likely would never have purchased anyway, right?
A group of designers are looking to change this wastefulness. Although it is only a concept right now, their concept certainly is intriguing. We have all seen the various plastic recycling extruder systems out there, but what if this capability was built into your next 3D printer?
Yangzi Qin, Yingting Wang, Luckas Fischer & Hanying Xie have teamed up to conceptualize the 3D Re-Printer, all-in-one 3D printer/plastic recycling system. Basically the 3D Re-Printer allows its user to feed used plastic items, which they would normally discard as trash, into the top of the machine. They machine will then grind the plastic up into a powder like material. At this point, the printer melts that powder, and extrudes it in molten form, just like an ordinary FDM printer would do with filament, to build an item up layer-by-layer.
“Plastic products and waste material are part of our daily lives, be it at home, in school, or the office,” explained the team on their conceptual drawings. “We don’t know where to put most of these products, or feel that it is such a waste. The quantity of plastic waste is constantly rising and thus affecting our lives in the future and causing damage to the environment due to huge landfills and the long time it takes to degrade. 3D Re-Printer is a device design that allows the user to recycle the home waste plastic bottles into new products.”
As you can see in the images provided, the team has certainly planned out many of the details, at least in terms of aesthetics. With that said, the internal design is what’s important. It would be incredibly difficult for a machine built like this to be printing at the same time that plastic is being shoved in and ground up. The vibrations caused by the grinder would certainly affect the quality of the print. Despite this, such a system may work if the user was to grind their plastic prior to a print being commenced.
I have no doubt that as the technology progresses, behind both extrusion systems and 3D printing, we will see products like the 3D Re-Printer come to market in the years to come. What do you think? Let’s hear your thoughts on this concept in the 3D Re-Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.