New Device Turns Plastic Into 3D-Printing Material

Researchers have developed a new desktop device that quickly turns plastic waste into raw 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 at the University of British Columbia. “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, researchers said. It can produce 10 feet of filament per minute – the fastest extruder on the market, said Oosterman.

A kilogramme spool of filament created by ProtoCycler costs USD 5 if produced with plastic pellets available for purchase, or is free. Last year, Oosterman, Kay and Joyce formed ReDeTec (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,” Oosterman added.