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Desktop Machine Recycles Plastic Into 3D Printing ‘Ink’

The Filabot turns old soda bottles and product packaging into filament, making the new tech a more sustainable process.

Allie Walker
Allie Walker on January 14, 2013. @NYC_Allie

3D printing is poised to disrupt nearly every industry–we can 3D print houses, kidneys, and even miniature replicas of ourselves. As the potential output scenarios of 3D printing grow, our thoughts turn to input; while 3D printing replaces the need to use traditional, more costly resources like wood, the use of plastics isn’t the most eco-friendly. To help make the process more sustainable, Vermont Technical College student Tyler McNaney created The Filabot, a desktop machine that recycles common plastics into 3D printing filament.

Instead of purchasing pricey 3D printing filament from the likes of Makerbot (which start at $48/spool!), users can think of their recycling bin as their ‘source’ for all of their 3D printing needs- The Filabot turns old milk jugs, soda bottles, and even product packaging into uniform filament by grinding, melting, and extruding the plastic. The machine then rolls the filament onto a spool, ready to be fed into a 3D printer to create something new. One milk jug and detergent bottle can produce eight feet of filament– just think about how many plastic items you recycle each week, and the new items you can make with a 3D printer are endless!

The Filabot turns 3D printing into a self-sufficient model; users are free to experiment and print as much as they like without spending additional money–if something doesn’t come out quite right, they can feed it back into The Filabot and start over again. The machine moves the possibilites of 3D printing forward as users are unrestrained by extra cost, and lowers the footprint of 3D printing with the use of recycled plastics.

The Filabot

photo credit: Whitney Trudo

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