Three engineering physics students at the University of British Columbia have developed a desktop plastic recycler and extruder that turns plastic waste into the material needed for 3D printing. Called ProtoCycler, the machine can grind plastic, such as pop bottles and Lego, and melt it into a filament that can be fed into 3D printers.
ProtoCycler began as a fourth-year engineering project for inventors Dennon Oosterman, Alex Kay and David Joyce. "We were concerned about the amount of plastic waste generated in our engineering projects, so we looked for a way to recycle that plastic back into usable filament," Oosterman said.
While there are other desktop filament extruders and plastic grinders on the market, ProtoCycler combines the two and is faster and easier to use. It can produce 10 feet of filament per minute - the fastest extruder on the market, says Oosterman.
A kilogram spool of filament created by ProtoCycler costs $5 if produced with plastic pellets available for purchase, or is free if produced from used plastic. The cheapest store-bought spool starts at $30.
Last year, Oosterman, Kay and Joyce formed ReDeTec (short for Renewable Design Technology) to bring their design to market.
"Schools are including 3D printing as part of their science and technology curriculum, but the cost of having each student try a project can quickly become unaffordable," Oosterman said. "With ProtoCycler, the students can try over and over until it's perfect, nearly for free, without harming the environment."
Source and top image: University of British Columbia