The 3D printer ethos was developed on the idea that the product should be completely self-sufficient, friendly towards the Earth, and make use of readily available materials that aren’t going to become difficult to acquire anytime soon. The main choice of printer material is ABS plastic. While this is easily recycled from plastic materials, many vendors choose to use new plastics in their “ink” rather than something more eco-friendly. That’s set to change.
Introducing Liz Havlin
Havlin, based in Seattle, Washington, has interestingly designed a machine that was made using 3D printed parts. The machine itself harvests usable plastics from old plastic soda bottles. Codenamed Legacy, the machine can be built with about $250 in printed parts and Havlin is complimenting this design with open source software that allows people to create their own desktop recycling plant.
Not The First Time
This isn’t the first time that someone has thought of an idea like this. Make Magazine recently featured an article that showed 3D printer owners how to make their own filament using an extruder called the Filabot. The DIY project associated with the bot, known as the Filamaker, turned into a commercial device that retails for just under $700 USD. Havlin’s project seems unique in the idea that it aims to reach a wider audience and has a stronger focus on recycling.. and a much smaller price tag in parts to boot.
Job Creation Opportunities
Havlin is also on the verge of creating a Seattle-area business that turns recycled plastics into usable filaments. She’s working alongside local recruitment agencies and government officials to help provide employment opportunities for those with developmental disabilities, which would create jobs for those who would otherwise have difficulty finding long-term employment.
She is also considering sending the Legacy plastic extruder to India within the next few months to help explore possibilities for creating a more global recycling movement that’s based on her machine. How this will pan out in the long term remains to be seen, but it’s certainly possible that the printer could have global prospects and a worldwide interest given how popular desktop 3D printers are becoming with mainstream audiences.
This is certainly something that has the potential to go a long way, but questions remain regarding the usability of recycled 3D printer “ink”. As with most hardware, using unapproved products in conjunction with them often voids warranties. This would likely be the case with 3D printers using third party materials. Does this necessarily mean the idea isn’t going to take off? Absolutely not. Users will have to exercise discretion and caution when using these products, though. It’s also possible that manufacturers will take the idea on board and approve recycled “cartridges” for use in their printers. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.