Perhaps the biggest complaint lofted at the nascent 3D printing industry is that, when it comes down to it, unless you've got a very special kind of robot, chances are your DIY object printing projects will be done in plastic. Still effectively the future, my boy, using the much-maligned synthetic solid is all-but unavoidable when it comes to most additive manufacturing. That's not to say all plastics are bad—PLA, one of the two plastics primarily used in extrusion-based 3D printing, is derived from renewable resources including corn starch and tapioca—but they're still a tough sell considering that only 23% of the 50 billion plastic water bottles Americans use every year are recycled.
Precious Plastic, a set of 'plastic machines' created for small-scale DIY plastic recycling aims to change all of that: created by designer Dave Hakkens of Phonebloks fame, injection, rotational, extrusion, and shredder, are four viable mechanical answers to the ever-contemporary question of, "What do I do with all this plastic?"
Here's Hakkens' explanation:
It's important to note that these sorts of machines aren't "new," but rather, adaptations of plastic industry standards for the home workshop environment. Says Hakkens, "Injection molding is the most commonly used technique in the plastic industry. Usually these machines are extremely quick—[injection] is much slower and more manual, but can still produce a product every couple of minutes. The inserted plastic warms up and is then pressed inside a mould."
Simply put, these machines could revolutionize recycling by making it an at-home solution to the Post-Fordian accumulation of take-out containers.
Extrusion, another one of Hakkens' machines, could eventually be used to produce filaments for 3D printing. "Shredder plastic is put in the bucket," Hakkens explains, "the screw inside the tube presses the flakes forwards and the heating elements melt the plastic along the way. The outcome of this process is a line of molded plastic—the form depends on the shape of the nozzle."
Theoretically, one could even re-print with faulty, damaged, or misprinted moldings—banes of the additive manufacturing industry, with the hopes of making 3D printing a truly waste-less process.
Explains Hakkens, "Whilst this entire project is still in development, the machines are shared open source online and improved by the community. [...] Our goal is to develop the ultimate plastic machinery together and share this open source online. We want that people all over the world can download the designs, build these machines and start a local plastic recycle center. In these centers local plastic waste is collected, transformed into new products and therefore making it possible to turn plastic waste locally into new products."
Basically, the futures of recycling and 3D printing just got even brighter. Below, Dave Hakkens' Precious Plastic, machines, their blueprints, and the products they're capable of: