Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Locals Find Work at Australian Recycling Center Turning E-Waste into 3D Printers

ST Medical Devices

Share this Article

e-hub-logo-mackay-and-sarinaFor a couple of years, my husband had what I jokingly referred to as a “computer graveyard” in the basement of our house. Our old college computers were down there, those mammoth desktop beasts taking up all sorts of valuable shelf space, along with a dilapidated box of dusty cords and a printer or two. Eventually, when I needed the shelf space (I may have too many Halloween decorations), I told him that unless he planned on doing something with all of the old computers ASAP, they had to go, and off to the recycling facility they went. Had I known then what I know now, we could have tried to build our own 3D printer out of those old parts! It seems that e-waste 3D printers are popping up all over the place these days. In Australia, a north Queensland recycling center and two e-Hubs are not only helping locals recycle their old electronic equipment, they’re providing jobs for people at the same time.

e-hub-sarina-sign-with-computer-partsA few months ago, e-Hub Mackay and e-Hub Sarina opened their doors to people who wanted to dispose of old equipment like printers and scanners in an environmentally responsible way. The e-Hubs are reincarnating these devices, and carrying out a dream to produce 3D printers. According to Startup Mackay, any repairable computers have the hard drives wiped, and are then refurbished and sold, or donated to charity. If the computers can’t be saved, the two facilities will disassemble them and “harvest salvageable parts for building things,” like 3D printers.

Project supervisor Frank Mason said that while the centers do help with waste, they also provide a place for people to learn the kinds of skills that could assist them in future stable employment in the tech industry.

Project supervisor Frank Mason with recyclable printer cords [Image: ABC Tropical North, Harriet Tatham]

Project supervisor Frank Mason with recyclable printer cords [Image: ABC Tropical North, Harriet Tatham]

“We are running this as a social enterprise, utilising some people that are on the work for the dole program, basically giving them a reason to get out of bed. They’re pulling them apart into their components – the steel, the plastic, the electronic components – and sorting them out, to work out whether it’s possible to re-use these parts. Things like motors, things like rods, things like wiring boards, we’re looking at how we might use them. And one of the ideas we’ve got is to turn it into a 3D printer,” Mason explained.

He said that, with the exceptions of the controller and extruder, a basic 3D printer can be created from just “a couple of office copiers and some bespoke parts.” What’s actually sort of funny is that existing 3D printers are used to help finish these e-waste 3D printers!

taking-apart-a-printer

[Image: ABC Tropical North, Harriet Tatham]

Mason said, “You need the 3D printers to make some of the parts, so the plastic turns into filament, and then to make some of the components that hold the printer together. The 3D printer will help make the next 3D printer.”

jesse-arnold-working-on-e-waste-3d-printer

Jesse Arnold [Image: ABC Tropical North, Harriet Tatham]

He said people often consider this kind of work to be a job ‘of the future,’ and not a current job, but that this is not the case. There are valuable skills to be learned doing this type of work, and we all know that 3D printers are here to stay. 23-year-old Jesse Arnold of Mackay came across this project after he’d been unemployed for almost a year. He was educated and had experience working with forklifts, warehousing, and transport logistics, but said that the work had “sort of dried up” in those fields. Then he heard about the recycling centers and the two e-Hubs.

Arnold said, “One day we’ll come in and work with the plastic pieces, and other days we’ll work with the wiring and the motors and stuff, to get it all running. I never understood wiring and never thought I’d feel safe working with any of that stuff, but I’m slowly learning how to solder.”

He hopes that the valuable experience and skills he’s learned will help him re-enter the workforce soon, and find a job where he can give back, and use his newly learned tech skills.

“It gives me the experience to get out and do something for the day and be a part of giving back to the community. Considering that I’m learning the skills and the knowledge, I can take that further and hopefully put it to use somewhere else,” said Arnold.

frank-mason-with-recycled-printers-and-electronics

Frank Mason with recycled electronics [Image: ABC Tropical North, Harriet Tatham]

The project has enjoyed great success so far – in its first two weeks alone, the Mackay e-Hub collected over three metric tons of printers that workers were able able to save from the landfill, and disassemble for recycling. Mason says that their goal is to ultimately eliminate ten metric tons of landfill. According to an ABC Tropical News story posted to the Mackay e-Hub Facebook page, they are able to build one 3D printer out of e-waste a week. As if this feel-good story couldn’t get any better, these 3D printers will also be donated to local schools, who will be able to use the equipment to further the children’s education about electronics.

Mason said, “In the old days you used to do wood work, metal work and dress-making. Well what about 3D printing, coding, making your own filament? What a great exercise to teach people how they’re made.”

According to the Mackay e-Hub Facebook page, they are also creating some unique artwork from the e-waste, using toner ink to paint and building statues from the steel frames of photocopiers. Discuss in the e-Hub forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source/Images: ABC Tropical North]

 

Share this Article


Recent News

3DPOD Episode 93: Bound Metal 3D Printing with Mantle CEO Ted Sorom

Eco-Friendly 3D Printing: Sustainable Luxury Handbags Enabled with AM



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

3D Printing Webinar and Event Roundup: January 16, 2022

We’re back in business this week with plenty of webinars and events, both virtual and in-person, starting with the second edition of the all-female-speaker TIPE 3D Printing conference. There are...

3D Printing News Briefs, January 12, 2022: Rebranding, Bioprinting, & More

First up in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, Particle3D has gone through a rebrand, and a team of researchers developed a way to 3D print and preserve tissues in below-freezing...

3D Printing News Briefs, January 5, 2022: Software, Research, & More

We’re kicking off today’s 3D Printing News Briefs with 3D software, as Materialise has integrated Siemens’ Parasolid with its own Magics software. Moving on, The Virtual Foundry launched a metal...

3D Printing News Briefs, January 1st, 2022: CES 2022, Standards, Business, & More

Happy New Year! We’re starting with this week’s CES 2022 in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, then moving on to a new AM standard and business news from Roboze and...


Shop

View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.