|The Perpetual Plastic Project demonstrates how discarded plastic can be recycled locally and used in 3D printing. It means that once plastic enters your community, it can become a perpetual resource either used for manufacturing, or used in its manufactured state.|
The technology to localize plastic production from scratch isn't quite there yet. However, there is another possibility for localizing your 3D printing filament. Plastic recycling.
PLA and ABS plastics are also known as thermoplastics, meaning they can be heated up and melted down over and over, which is the secret behind their recyclable nature. What if you could build a machine that could take shredded PLA, ABS, and other thermoplastics, melt it down, and extrude a thin filament for 3D printing?
That is precisely what hackers, makers, and a growing number of 3D printing companies have begun doing. Several projects already out there with kits, products, or demonstrations include:
Filament Factory project on Instructables, for example, at least gives people a starting point in pursuit of building their own systems to suit their own specific needs.
Still, the prospect of "mining" local sources of discarded or unwanted plastic, and turning it into something new with personal manufacturing, stands to solve so many different problems and empower people on a whole new level, it is worth sorting out the technical difficulties involved.
Sourcing and manufacturing from plastic locally shortens many of the immense, global-spanning supply chains modern society currently depends on. By doing so, a tremendous amount of energy is saved, and financial resources are kept local, in communities. It also adds a layer of stability to local economies, with their resource and manufacturing base under their own management, and insulated from sometimes turbulent national and international markets.
|One of the many kits you can buy to take old plastic and turn it into 3D printing filament.|
Filament production adds to 3D printing's philosophy of putting the means of production into the hands of ordinary people. It also means that we will start to look at much of what we considered "trash" more as "treasure." This could help keep plastic from ending up buried in land, clogging up our waterways, or otherwise polluting our communities and their surrounding environments. It will also help inform our otherwise very consumerist mentality regarding just where these things we see and take for granted on the shelves of our stores come from, as we seek to do-it-ourselves locally, from start to finish.
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