Filabot prototype (via Kickstarter)
News about 3D printing can be found just about anywhere nowadays as long as there is progress to be mentioned on its already-innovative way of providing rapid, in-home manufacturing to those lucky enough to afford one. Though extremely useful, in retrospect, 3D printing does not entirely address environmental concerns on the copious use of plastics found in most everyday products. Though several 3D printers do accept the use of PLA, a biodegradable plastic derived from plant-sources, the concern lies in the continual accumulation of environmentally unfriendly plastics now that the formation of such products is in the hands of consumers. That is where Filabot comes.
Filabot’s goal is to bring the age-old plastic extrusion technique found in manufacturing facilities right to your home work station. How does an in-home plastic extruder address issues concerning the environment. Well, Filabot is specifically designed to grind down and melt recyclable plastics found in the home to generate the type of filament used by 3D printers. The entire process effectively allows makers to create their own printing spools from what would otherwise be converted into waste.
The Filabot device operates within a semi-enclosed 24 in x 12 in x 12 in space. To begin the process, pieces of plastic less than 4” in diameter -obtained from plastic bottles, milk jugs, CD/DVD cases, etc. - are fed into the grinder. The plastic is pulverized into a uniform size and moved into a hopper that feeds the material into a barrel where the melting takes place. The heating element consists of a coil with a variable temperature control that accommodates for the inconsistent melting temperatures of varying plastics. The molten plastic is then extruded out of an interchangeable nozzle, currently available in 1.75mm and 3mm sizes, and finally delivered through a system of rollers and cutters to produce a finished plastic spool.
The 3D plastic extrusion system still has its share of kinks to be worked out. Tyler McNaney, creator of the Filabot, is in the process of testing for inconsistencies in produced filaments while beginning to assemble the 65 Filabot kits promised to his Kickstarter backers. The project has also taken an exciting turn now collaborating with Kamermaker - the world’s first movable structure that can 3D print entire huts out of plastic with the intention of providing shelter for developing countries. Now they too would like to get in on the recyclable plastic fun.
The Filabot’s success would provide a much-needed support to the environmental woes burdened by increased plastic manufacturing. By repurposing old plastic prints and/or recyclable goods creating a self-sufficient supply of printing filament, makers and the environment alike come out as winners on this one.