Filabot by Tyler McNaney

Desktop recycling plant makes plastic for 3D printing

News: American college student Tyler McNaney has invented a desktop machine that makes the raw materials for 3D printing by grinding up waste plastic from bottles, wrappers and even Lego bricks.

Top image: Filabot, photograph by Whitney Trudo 

Mechanical engineering student McNaney came up with the Filabot as a cheap alternative to the spools of filament used by 3D printers. A kilogram of filament from Makerbot, for example, costs around $50.

Any type of recyclable plastic can be turned into filament, from food wrappers and drinks bottles to water pipes and Lego bricks. The machine grinds up the plastic, melts it down and then extrudes it as a material that can be fed into a 3D printer.

As well as waste plastic, the machine also allows users to recycle their unsuccessful or unwanted 3D-printed objects. "It is a one stop shop for all the filament you could ever need," he explains.

Filabot by Tyler McNaney

Above: prototype of the Filabot

Initially launched on crowdfunding website Kickstarter last October, the machine soon overtook its initial target of $10,000, with backers pledging over $30,000 in total.

McNaney now plans to launch a small range of the machines led by the Filabot Reclaimer, a fully enclosed machine that comes fitted with a plastic grinder. Also available will be the basic Filabot Wee, which comes without a grinder and requires self-assembly, and the Filabot Core, which comes fully assembled. A stand-alone grinder will be available separately.

The first batch of Filabots will be sent out to Kickstarter backers before the machine goes into general production, according to McNaney.

Filabot by Tyler McNaney

Above: prototype image of the Filabot

We've been reporting on the rise of 3D printing, including printers that make tiny models of faces and the development of 3D-printed guns.

Last year Dezeen also spoke to Bre Pettis, head of 3D printer manufacturer Makerbot Industries, who told us that 3D printing would reverse the industrial revolution by placing factories back in people's homes.

See all our stories about 3D printing ».