With any printer, the cost of ink is what puts people off long after the machine has been paid for. With ink jet and laser printers, you can’t turn your plastic recyclables -- the cartridges -- into new toner. With 3-D printers, you can.
Tyler McNaney, a college student in Vermont, fell in love with 3-D printing about a year ago and has spent his spare time reconfiguring an old plastic extrusion technology to build his own line of recyclable 3-D filament extruder to turn plastic bottles into more projects. The Filabot grinds the pieces of plastic to a uniform size then feeds the plastic chips into the heating unit, which melts the plastic to the appropriate temperature. It’s extruded as filament through an interchangeable nozzle.
The Filabot, as McNaney has named it, will turn water, juice and milk bottles into 3-D printing filament. Not only does the Filabot offer a cheap alternative to expensive 3-D filament - MakerBot sells its online for $48 per kilo (a little more than 2 pounds) – it also offers a creative way to turn recyclable plastics into a good time.
Getting the machines up to full production will take time, but the first batch of 67 Filabots will go out to the original Kickstarter backers soon, and, it’s hoped, be available to the rest us before long.