A spool of filament will produce dozens of 3D objects, and though the costs of 3D printers are steadily falling, the cost of filament is on the rise. There have been a few proposals to deal with the somewhat high cost of filament. One of those approaches involves directly recycling plastics and turning them into filament. We’ve mentioned the Filabot Reclaimer several times here, as it grinds all sorts of plastics and melts them into filament, and even spools it up. It was successfully funded on Kickstarter in January of last year, but backers have yet to receive any Filabots. That’s not because the creator hasn’t been busy working on it, he’s just been in school too. He’s back at home now and has commandeered his father’s workshop, where he’s getting much more done than he was in the box truck he was previously working out of. However, the Filabot isn’t the only path to cheap filament.
One day when Zach Kaplan, CEO of Inventables, and Pocket Factory’s Bilal Ghalib were groaning over the prices of filament, Ghalib had the bright idea to challenge the maker community to design an affordable, open source contraption that makes filament out of the much cheaper plastic pellets. Kaplan agreed that the idea had promise, so he pitched it to Lesa Mitchell, Vice President of Innovation and Networks at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation; the Foundation is all about entrepreneurship and already participates in Maker Faire. Mitchell was in, so in May, the Desktop Factory Competition launched. The first person or group that submitted a functional machine that cost $250 or less to build would win $40,000 and a “Desktop Fabrication Lab (a 3D printer, an FS Laser Cutter, and a Shapeoko CNC Mill).” It took a mere 10 months before 83 year old Hugh Lyman claimed that prize with his second submission; his first submission had custom parts that couldn’t be priced accurately. Lyman is retired from scientific cabinetry manufacturing, now spending much of his time putting 3D printers together and inventing. Check out the Lyman Filament Extruder II:
That’s not the only filament extruder on Thingiverse, though. Joshua Pearce, with iterations from Christian Baechler and Matthew DeVuono, created the Recyclebot, an open source machine that turns pre-shredded plastics into filament. It’s similar to the Filabot but the plastic pieces have to be much smaller.
So if you’re tired of paying for filament, build one of these filament extruders, or wait for the Filabot to hit the market. That should be any day now…