Filabot Looks to Close the Loop on 3-D Printing

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Personal filament making for use in 3-D printing




Closing the loop of 3-D printing



It seems like almost everyday brings about another news story detailing the increasing possibilities of 3-D printing. What these articles don’t usually include is the high cost of the ‘ink’ – plastic filament – that these printers use, with a kilogram spool of the plastic reaching prices of $40 or more. Not only is this price prohibitive, but restrictive to creativity as well; the area still requires significant amount of experimentation, which might not be easily done because of these costs.

This is where Vermont-based start up Filabot comes into the picture, with their desktop extruding system. In other words, Filabot can take waste plastic, melt it down, and then convert it into usable filament for 3-D printers. The system can use plastic from previously botched prints, along with other sources that include milk jugs and soda bottles. “I am working on this because this is the next system that is needed for at-home manufacturing,” says creator Tyler McNaney. “3-D printing is in its infancy, and when coupled with a Filabot a 3-D printer will be a complete closed-loop recycling system on your desk, office or school. I also see a lot of potential for helping out third-world countries. With a Filabot and a 3-D printer, people can now make things as simple as a fork or cup.”

Filabot hasn’t been fully perfected yet though; the system still has issues with impurities and bubbling in the plastic. It isn’t available publicly either – although a number were sold through an earlier Kickstarter campaign – the team behind it are still hoping to fine-tune the system before it sees a wider release.

Drew Nitschke is a first-year graduate student at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment, working towards degree in Environmental Economics and Policy. He is especially interested in sustainability and how it relates to business of all sizes. He graduated from UCLA in June 2012 after...
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