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The 3D Un-Printer 91

An anonymous reader writes "3D printing is on its way toward becoming ubiquitous. Of course, if you have such a printer and want to print something, you need raw materials — the plastic filament that's fed into the machine. It's also likely that while you're learning the ropes, you'll print a bunch of terrible attempts at objects, and end up having to throw them out. Now, Wired is reporting on a device aiming to solve both of those problems. Tyler McNaney's 'Filabot' will break down failed projects as well as many other plastic items from traditional manufacturers, turning them into a filament you can then feed through a 3D printer. 'So far the plastics that work are HDPE, LDPE, ABS, NYLON. More to come on the different types that work.' McNaney sees it as a 'closed-loop recycling system on your desk.' The Filabot's Kickstarter campaign succeeded easily in 2012, and now he and his team are getting ready to launch."
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The 3D Un-Printer

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    For Mr. Fusion.

    Why waste time with recycling when I can just convert matter to energy?

    • by zackeller ( 653801 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @06:48PM (#42630131)
      Fire converts matter to energy pretty well.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Fire's efficiency is abysmal. Pollutant as hell too.

        Given how much you can get out of a ton of fissioned nuclear fuel, and how much you get out of a ton of fuel, fire can hardly be considered to create energy "pretty well"

      • Um, no. It converts matter to other matter and release the potential energy stored within it. There is a theory about some 0.001% of the matter disappearing, but it's nowhere near "converted well".
        • Re:Still waiting... (Score:5, Informative)

          by mpoulton ( 689851 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @07:52PM (#42630597)

          Um, no. It converts matter to other matter and release the potential energy stored within it. There is a theory about some 0.001% of the matter disappearing, but it's nowhere near "converted well".

          Mass and energy are the *same thing* for these purposes. Whatever energy is released in the burning of a fire is manifested as a decrease in the mass of the reaction products. It's a tiny decrease, but real. The conversion is perfectly efficient, too. So although burning stuff may not be able to convert very much mass to energy, it does so "well" by most definitions.

          • by tragedy ( 27079 )

            I assume that the mass you're talking about is the mass inherent in the energy from the chemical bonds that are broken. To say that mass is decreased then should depend on how you define the "reaction products". If the reaction products include the heat that comes from the reaction, then shouldn't the mass of the heat account for all of the lost mass?

          • GP is talking about combustion, not nuclear reaction. In this case, "tiny decrease" is still a huge understatement. For all intents and purposes, the energy released is from the change in chemical bonds, not conversion of mass->energy. Mass-balance is taught in chemistry and thermodynamics because (short of nuclear reactions) it works. Combustion is quite inefficient in engineering terms because (current) technology is incapable of realizing all of that released energy. It often does well enough but we c

            • Not just combustion. Even nuclear and chemical reaction systems follow the same rules.
              • ?...Yeah, I'd have to agree. Like you said:

                It converts matter to other matter and release the potential energy stored within it. There is a theory about some 0.001% of the matter disappearing, but it's nowhere near "converted well".

      • Re:Still waiting... (Score:4, Informative)

        by lister king of smeg ( 2481612 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @09:36PM (#42631285)

        No fire releases energy stored in the molecular bonds all the matter is still there after. Fire is a rapid decomposition releasing the stored energy as heat and light.
        Nuclear is far far more efficient. http://xkcd.com/1162/ [xkcd.com]

    • by memnock ( 466995 )

      Do you need that much energy?

      Unrelated, I have no idea about the manufacture or recycling/destruction of plastic: are there some risks related to toxins? For example, would there be poisonous fumes to worry about with printing or the unprinting? Just curious.

  • Nylon? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @06:28PM (#42629931)

    That one is so easy to find from bags that it may be worth using those with this instead of throwing them away when you can't use them.

    • Re:Nylon? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lisaparratt ( 752068 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @06:37PM (#42630027)

      The same nylon that outgasses cyanide upon heating, you mean?

      • Re:Nylon? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Thantik ( 1207112 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @06:55PM (#42630189)

        You mean the same Nylon that was tested and didn't even come close to any levels that could be considered toxic?

        http://www.instructables.com/id/Is-3D-Printing-Safe-or-DIY-Testing-for-HCN-from-/ [instructables.com]

        • Re:Nylon? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @07:52PM (#42630595) Journal

          The people that tested it did not use an independent lab (or ANY lab, really...), and they also sell it. Grain of salt required here.

          That said, cyanide offgassing is more of a problem when nylon is burning or severely overheated. Either way, caution is required.

        • You mean the special nylon formulation for printing, rather than any old crap off the street?

          • by anethema ( 99553 )

            If you would have opened it you would have seen they tried both. Weed whacker line was the stuff they used as non-3d-printing nylon.

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        if your printer is outside, you're probably ok with most types of nylon.
        but there's a variety for home printing that can be printed at ~235-250 temperatures, it's pretty cheap but harder to print than even abs, but makes very strong and flex tolerant parts (google for taulman 3d).

        but alas, it doesn't stick too well and strings easily.. but well worth checking if you're into 3d printing.

        personally it's not the recycling of the plastic that's limiting for me. it's the time for printing that is, big parts tak

      • The temperature at which nylon melts is significantly less than the temperature of ignition, which is where the toxic gasses occur. Many people have been using nylon in their 3d printers with no issue... In fact, it turns out to be a great filament to use in them and makes very nice products.

    • What I don't see on their site is how many milk jugs are needed for X inches of filament. Anybody have any idea on the volume of the source requirements?
      • Go by mass (weight).
      • You can find the density of PLA and ABS on wikipedia, so you can convert from a given weight of milk-jug plastic to a number of inches of 3mm thick filament. Most 3d printing enthusiasts don't even use volume or length of filament though, they just use weight.

    • Do you mean the plastic grocery bags and vegetable/meat bags? All the ones in my house are marked "2" for HDPE, which is on the list. Of course, they might gum it up still:

      Think a meat grinder on top of a pasta maker and you get the general idea.

  • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @06:32PM (#42629969)

    Will need to do some hacking work so this can work with HP 3d printers.

  • by Antipater ( 2053064 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @06:33PM (#42629981)
    Who needs an icicle when you can just Un-Print your knife?
    • by flatt ( 513465 )

      Too messy. If you're not using your unprinter to process Soylent Green, you just aren't trying.

      • Exactly! These printers could take Soylent Green to the next level from its beginnings as Boca Burgers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2013 @06:42PM (#42630077)

    I was under the impression that extruders to create the feed filament were still pretty expensive.
    Plastic pellet feed stock is cheap industrial commodity, a lot cheaper than the plastic spools that are ready to be fed in to your 3D printer.

    Hell with feeding this with bits of old plastic. If you can just feed it a bag of pellets, and it's cheap to buy, we'd have solved one of the bigger issues with DIY 3D printing.

  • by Thantik ( 1207112 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @07:00PM (#42630231)

    The Filabot has more marketing than it has engineering. The Lyman filament extruder has already surpassed the filabots noisy and slow output. Makible, makers of the soon to be $200 3D printer the Makibox (http://www.makibox.com), are releasing a 1.75mm extruder (dubbed the "ramen) that they've already demonstrated working in previous google plus hangouts. The filabot is overhyped and overplayed. They got huge funding via a kickstarter a while back and ever since then, produced a prototype machine that's on the level of the very first filament extruders the reprap project had to begin with.

    Gary Hodgson has released the history of reprap development on his site: http://garyhodgson.com/reprap/reprap-developer-bookshelf/ [garyhodgson.com] - and if you look through the reprap ebook, you'll see people doing what the filabot is doing now....3 years ago.

    This is a complete non-story that publications love to jump on, I just wish they would do their research first.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "The Filabot has more marketing than it has engineering."

      You just described the whole 3D printing fad. Can someone explain to me why when Don Lancaster was talking about Santa Claus machines over two decades ago, no one noticed? Ah, it was because virtual reality was on everyone's mind because VR was going to be the future!

      Seriously, 20 years ago we had stepper motors, computers and hot glue guns... Why now?

      • by brkello ( 642429 ) on Friday January 18, 2013 @08:22PM (#42630773)

        It is becoming cheaper and cheaper. When the cost is low enough, more consumers will buy and it becomes profitable.

        Once people put out designs to buy for stupid things that teenagers like, it will fly off shelves. Print out your own cell phone cases or designs you can stick on your text books.

        Also, you have tinkerers who will think it is fun to play with at that price.

        All it will take is one killer product and everyone will start wanting one.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Once people put out designs to buy for stupid things that teenagers like, it will fly off shelves. Print out your own cell phone cases or designs you can stick on your text books.

          Already happened: Nokia To Release Lumia Case Design Files For 3D Printers [slashdot.org]

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )
          I can see the retired guys in woodworking clubs starting to play with these things for months on end and producing designs we are not capable of imagining. Take a few accumulated centuries of mucking about with woodcarving and remove a lot of the materials and fabrication limits they keep banging up against and who knows what will come out of it. That 3D printing example from the 1990s of a rook chesspiece with windows and an internal spiral staircase is just a hint of what is possible.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Yeah just like computer-controlled sewing machines took off in the 1980s. Remember when teenagers all designed their own patches and made their own clothes? Oh right, never happened. Oooh, I know, virtual reality will totally take over and people will walk around with VR glasses and design their own surroundings! Oh wait, that never happened either. What makes you think that the majority of the population thinks like you do and wants the same things you do? We invented mass production for a reason. Because

          • by vik ( 17857 )

            "Remember when teenagers all designed their own patches and made their own clothes? Oh right, never happened."

            I call bullshit. Did happen lots. Still happens. Happens more the further back you go and the poorer you get. Just doesn't apply to rich white folks anymore.

            VIk :v)

          • by N1AK ( 864906 )
            computer-controlled sewing has a noticeably smaller niche than 3D printing may be able to service, especially given the way that designs will be shared between users now vs in the 1980s. That said I'm not sure the idea of 3D printers in every house is viable. Most people aren't going to want to buy, maintain, understand and use it. However 3D print shops able to handle different materials, electronics etc in every town will happen (obviously in my opinion).

            VR is a bit of a strawman example. VR hasn't hap
    • I have a few reservations, and big disclaimer here - I make 3D printer filament. The main one is that the tiniest bit of crap in your plastic will inevitably find your printer's nozzle pinhole. If it does not fit through, you will block.

      The other is that the machine does not yet seem to be fully functional and they're already welding up all the pretty boxes. Priorities, guys.

    • by daid303 ( 843777 )

      Not sure how you could build a $200 3D printer. I did a BOM for my TITAN 3D printer. And I'm on about 300 euros. Just steppers and steppermotor drivers sets you back 100 euro. Leaving a 100 for hotend, rods, bearings, and all other parts...

  • So you'll print something, then have a robotic arm remove the finished product and place it in the unprinter, where it becomes a filament that feeds back to the printer?
    That's even better than the printer-paper shredder combo I've been hearing about. I suppose it will still need energy input.

    Say, I've got a black box sitting here that does all that, no energy input required. Except you can't look in to see the inner works, because that would break the loop.
    But it will definitely manufacture anything you c

  • >> 3d printing is ubiquitous

    Really? Talk to me after offices start letting people print in color again...

    • Of course it's ubiquitous! That's why you need, why everyone needs this doohickey that the anonymous submitter certainly isn't involved with developing or selling!
  • I forget who, but someone made a 3d printer conceptual art project, where the printer uses wax to build something, and when its finished it melts it all and starts over, forever...
  • I have a bag full of CDs that need to go away.
    • I know someone managed to print polycarbonates on a Reprap-style machine. Chewing them up shouldn't take too long either.. but CDs have more than just plastics in them, so I'm not sure if it'd work well.

      Still, it'd be a good way to give -everyone- a decent stash of material to play with.

  • Awesome, now I can melt down this drawer full of plastic spoons and forks and print me some nice sporks.

  • I've been buying old inkjet multifunction printers and tearing them down for the useful parts, mainly motors, steel rods, gears, wheels, encoders, glass, axels, mechanical switches, tubes, opto-switches.... lots of stuff in them, for virtually free. The gutted out printer shells themselves though are a problem, so mostly I've just cut them into relatively flat sections (with an angle grinder cut-off saw) and stacked them in a corner hoping that one day I might have something like a filabot that I can feed

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