What seems a technology that will become an integral part of our future, 3D printers are already making an impact over a wide cross-section of industries.
Countries such as China are investing astronomical sums in the technology, and even Australia has made an investment through Monash University, to enable Australian industry to benefit from the technology, rather than be disrupted by it.
The technology itself is relatively cheap – a printer that can print from CAD-type software with a specially designed printer head that uses plastic filament as its “ink”.
Not all filaments are suitable to print drugs, but you are able to recycle a range of plastics to use as containers.
Containers and drugs can be printed side-by-side with copiers.
When you print something, you’re going to end up with little plastic corners and ends that are trimmed off and discarded because they’re too small to reuse. Think about how many 3D printers there are in the world and how many things they’re printing every day, and that’s a whole lot of waste that can only really end up in landfill.
So three engineering physics students at the University of British Columbia in Canada have invented the ProtoCycler, a device that can grind up all kinds of waste plastic into a beautiful clean spool of plastic filament that can be used in a 3D printer.
We’re talking anything – plastic bottles, 3D-printing cut-offs, takeaway food containers.
If your kids leave their LEGOs out one too many times for you to tread on with your bare feet… throw them in too. It works just like a juicer, which you can see in the video below.
“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,” one of the team, Dennon Oosterman, said in a press release.
Not only is this great for the environment, but the team says it will save you a fortune in filament costs for your 3D printing.
They say a kilogram spool of filament produced by the ProtoCycler will cost you nothing if you BYO waste plastic, and if you buy their special plastic pellets, it’s just $5. The cheapest store-bought spool starts at $30. Plus their device offers a much wider range of colour options than the ready-made spools you buy.
The device costs $699, but it’s basically like buying a device that cheaply produces ink to use in your regular printer.
The team hopes that the ProtoCycler will be something schools invest in so their students can go absolutely nuts on their 3D printers without the environment or their school’s budget having a total heart attack. “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 says.
“With ProtoCycler, the students can try over and over until it’s perfect, nearly for free, without harming the environment.”
That last part in particular sounds good and becomes a marketing point if pharmacists decide to include this technology in their forward business plans.
Meet ReDeTec and their philosophy
ReDeTec was founded by makers, for makers. We want everyone to be able to create whatever they wish, with no concerns for their wallet or the environment. The design technology available today is spurring a revolution in how people think, make, and create. Hacker spaces, Maker Faires, and 3D printers in schools are all evidence of a growing trend that allows anyone to make whatever they want, without needing the time or skill required by traditional manufacturing methods. But this technology has so far remained unsustainable. Whether it be the cost of buying new feedstock, or the waste generated as you finalize your design to perfection, true creative freedom is being held back by the consumable nature of the industry.
With Renewable Design Technology, all of that changes. When the material you use to mould your creations is no longer expensive to purchase and wasteful to use, true creative freedom can be unleashed. Waste can be reclaimed and formed into whatever you desire, without having to worry about how much money it will cost, or what the environmental impact will be. Our first target for reclamation is 3D printing – plastic waste is abundant, and 3D printers are one of the most accessible design tools available today. By allowing the user to recycle their 3D printer waste or even upcycle plastic waste such as water bottles and shopping bags, the technology takes on a whole new light – instead of an industry driven by consumption, it becomes an industry driven by creation. But we don’t want to stop there – we want every technology to be as sustainable as possible. By supporting us and using our products, you’re helping to ensure that anyone, anywhere, can make anything…in a sustainable, affordable way!