RecycleBot (2010)

RecycleBot (2010)

The advent of the Makerbot in 2009 – the first sub $1000 3D printer – promised a seachange in our understanding of 3D printing. Preferring not to wait and see, Ross Stevens put the following challenge to our industrial design students:

“As 3D printing technology continues to become cheaper and thus more accessible to the general public the opportunity for products to be made@home emerges. To maximize the ecological and economic potential of this it needs to be complimented with a de-making process allowing recycled@home”.

From this emerged the Recyclebot – an open-source hardware device for recycling plastic waste and transforming it into 3D printing filament – first conceived, named and developed by a group of nine students in 2010. While the initial prototype had a small ecological footprint, it was only hand powered and not able to produce filament of a high enough quality for 3D printing, but subsequent powered iterations did produce usable filament. It has since been acknowledged as Recyclebot V1.0 and it initiated the development of many versions of Recyclebots around the world, which have proven to be successful and viable for high quality production of 3D printing filament. This small-scale and localised method of processing plastic waste has potential for localised or distributed production of filament as a more sustainable alternative to importing 3D printing filament.

In this scenario domestic plastic, such as bottles or toys, are harvested and transformed from specific and redundant objects into generic plastic filament that can feed through the Makerbot to produced completely new objects. This offers the potential for a closed material loop – nowadays known as circular economy –  within the home where plastic is constantly transformed depending on needs, desires and whims of a new generation of digitally empowered craftspeople. They are no longer at the mercy of a far-off designers taste but are now part of the design process, becoming creators in their own right.

Materials and Processes –Closeup

Software:  SolidWorks

Hardware:  Makerbot Cupcake CNC Kitset 3D Printer, general workshop prototyping facilities.

Project Level:

Completed as a coursework project for IDDN 341 Production Materials and Processes.

Course Coordinator: Ross Stevens

Students: Daniel Collinson, Amelia Diggle, Jenny Drinkard, Avid Kadam, Ben Kitchen, Jason Mackie, Lou Mutsaers-Hoyte, Jono Watkins, Luke De Villiers

Shapeways Blog: Recyclebot: Greening the Makerbot, August 2010

Recyclebot Wikipedia