A recent trend in the manufacturing industry has been Fab labs, small forums where tools are provided to creators for creative manufacturing. Oftentimes these projects are centered around 3D printing and 3D design. A big part of these experiments is obviously the materials used, and now researchers are looking into using recycled plastics in their paper ‘Green Fab Lab Applications of Large-Area Waste Polymer-based Additive Manufacturing.’
Since a large majority of 3D printed goods are manufactured with plastics, leading the authors to look at the idea of fused particle fabrication/fused granular fabrication in a streamlined recycling manner, pulling materials from a supply of plastic waste. This new concept would add a functionality to fab labs beyond being creative hubs, they would also become recycling centers.
There are currently a few fab labs looking into making 3D printing beneficial for the environment, starting with the fact that the technology is inherently less detrimental to the environment. One of the most popular experiments is upcycling waste into filament with a number of different machines being developed to handle this type of manufacturing. The researchers wrote in the paper that they have already been successful with recycling a number of different plastics including PLA and ABS.
To test the project the team printed a bunch of sports equipment which included a skateboard, kayak paddles, and snowshoes. Blender and FreeCAD were used for designing the equipment so that the open source community will have access.
After a variety of tests the research team found that the Gigabot X offers the most economic potential as a recycling system and it successfully produced the equipment in all three cases. The project was an economic success even when it came to using electricity and customizing certain parts.