Machine converts plastic bottles into 3D printer filament
The James Dyson Award is a global design honor that recognizes, encourages, and inspires the next generation of design engineers. The award, open to current and recent design engineering students, is an opportunity for aspiring inventors to make a name for themselves.
The James Dyson Award’s mission is straightforward: create something that solves a problem.
No one will be surprised if the Polyformer machine wins a grand prize for expertly solving two problems at once.
The Polyformer was created by two young co-inventors, Reiten Cheng and Swaleh Owais, to tackle plastic waste and figure out how to turn it into low-cost filament for 3D printing, which would be beneficial to developing countries.
For many creators and hobbyists, 3D printer filament can be expensive, but this is especially true in developing countries where plastic waste is abundant.
Cheaper, accessible filament
According to Owais, who studied at McMaster University in Canada, importing a standard roll of 3D printer filament into Rwanda costs more than $60, whereas the same 1kg / 2.2-lb roll can be purchased in Canada for a fraction of that price.
A standard 500ml plastic bottle (1/2 quart size) can be converted into 3/4 ounces of print filament by the Polyformer machine (20 grams).
A Free opensource design
Another fascinating aspect of this story is that Polyformer’s design is an open-source project.
Instead of filing for a patent, Cheng and Owais made all of the CAD, code, and building instructions available to the public on the team’s Discord website, where anyone can assemble it.
“We want people from all over the world to be able to use Polyformer,
which is why we made it free,” said Cheng,
who studied at the ArtCenter College of Design in California.
“We’ve also designed it so that you can use a 3D printer to print many of the machine’s parts
, or you can buy them as needed.”
There are approximately 1,500 people in the Polyformer community worldwide,
and approximately 30+ machines have been built in countries such as Rwanda, Argentina, Spain, France, Germany, Mexico, Paraguay, Canada,
and the United States.
The user cuts a plastic bottle into a continuous strip using the custom bottle cutter mechanism,
which is then fed into the Polyformer extruder.
After being extruded from the nozzle, the filament is cooled and wrapped around a spool, which can then be inserted into any FDM 3D printer.
Sir James Dyson, Dyson’s founder and chief engineer,
who reinvented the vacuum cleaner decades ago, selected the award winners himself.
“By converting used plastic bottles into 3D printer filament, Polyformer helps reduce waste going to landfills,” Dyson explained.
“Their concept will open up new avenues for other inventors to prototype their ideas using 3D printing.”