Filabot OriginalAre you finding that buying 3D printing filaments is a cost you’d rather do without?

Purchasing filaments for your home’s 3D printing machine might not really seem expensive for occasional users.

However, if you are a big fan of creating objects using your 3D printer, you will sooner or later discover that constantly having to buy filaments can become pretty costly.

Current pricing for decent printer filaments is around $50 for one Kilogram of ABS plastic. Evidently the cost is somehow on the higher side and may limit the number of things you can create with your 3D printer because of the high expenses of acquiring printing filaments.

This is why a lot of people have warmly embraced the invention of Filabot; a device that can recycle any recyclable plastic materials turning them into 3D printing filaments. Filabot was invented by Tyler McNaney, an American mechanical engineering student from Vermont Technical College.

McNaney first launched the machine via his Filabot Kickstarter Project, sometime towards the end of last year; with the hope of receiving enough funding for him to expand on his idea. Initially he had set a goal to at least raise $10,000 from backers on Kickstarter in order to start off.

The project however was very appealing to backers as its use resonates to so many people and as a result, the money raised far surpassed McNaney’s initial goal tripling it to more than $32,000. He was charging $350 for the device on Kickstarter which was also quite frugal considering the value that it gives users.

The Filabot machine has dimensions of 12 × 12 × 24 inches and can turn most plastic wastes around the home into 3D printing filaments such as soda bottles, food wrappers, plastic tins and containers. Basically what’s really exciting about the device is that with it, every waste plastic lying around in the house is actually a printing material that your printer can use whenever you’re fabricating something.

The device can be bought fully assembled or one can choose to use the DIY approach by purchasing a kit and doing the assembling by yourself. The latter is a somewhat cheaper option. Check out Filabot on YouTube.

How Filabot Works

What you are likely going to love about your Filabot machine is that it is simple to use and is reasonably compact so fit easily on your desktop. However keep in mind that although the device can turn many different kinds of plastic into 3D printing filaments, it only works with recyclable plastics.

When creating your printing filaments, you first will need to insert the plastic wastes (or pellets) into the Filabot machine. Just as a disclaimer, remember that the process will be a lot faster if the plastic wastes you want recycled are of reasonable sizes. So when inserting the plastics into the machine, you might want to check on their sizes first.

Once the plastic is in the machine, the device will thoroughly grind the plastic material before melting it. There is a coil heating element inside Filabot which is designed to regulate the temperature for melting the plastic. The heating element varies the amount of temperature for melting the container or plastic pellets you insert based on the particular type of waste plastic material being recycled.

After the waste has been melted, Filabot will then extrude the plastic in the form of a coiled plastic filament which will now be ready for use in 3D printing.

How many feet of filament you get will directly depend on how large the volume of plastic waste you had put in the machine. Apparently, a single milk container plus a detergent bottle can provide at least 8 feet of printing filaments.

Filabots Impact on Future for Additive Manufacturing

The question is how’s the invention of Filabot going to impact on the future for the Additive Manufacturing technology? Any Benefits?

Most certainly! Filabot will have a lot of boons mainly in Helping Additive Manufacturing Become Mainstream. The main issue that has been slowing down the adoption of 3D printing by people at home has been costs!

As if it is not enough that 3D printers themselves are pricey, the printing filaments have also been adding to the overall high costs of additive manufacturing making it rather unbearable for some. The prices of 3D printers have been significantly reducing over time and now with the invention of Filabot, the costs of obtaining printing materials will also now become a lot more budget friendly.

When using Filabot, a user mostly spends about $3-$6, which is definitely a huge drop from $50 if you were to purchase your filaments online. Essentially, with the costs of printers and printing materials subsiding, no doubt additive manufacturing will stand a better chance of becoming mainstream a lot sooner.

It is equally important to factor in the Environmental Advantage associated to the use of this device. By providing a useful way to recycle and re-use plastic wastes around the home, there will be less environmental degradation due to reduced disposal of plastic wastes.

On the other hand, this will provide households with a better and more efficient way of dealing with plastic wastes around the house.

Expected Filabot Improvement

The first version of the Filabot extrudes filaments of diameter 1.75 – 3mm, which are very popular sizes. However in order to allow for greater flexibility, McNaney has announced that the final version of the device will be made with a tip that will make it possible for the diameter of the filament to be adjusted to suit various less common diameters too.

Product Launch

Tyler McNaney has expressed his intentions of launching the Filabot machine in different completion levels, as a way of enabling users to understand their devices better and have the opportunity of finishing the development of their own kits.

Some of the different variations of Filabot systems that are currently available to the market include:

  • Filabot Original – metal cased, industrial quality and fully assembled
  • Filabot Wee – made using laser cut plywood and available as a kit or assembled
  • Filabot Reclaimer – a tough and well built plastics grinding unit

Tyler McNaney prioritized delivering the first orders of the Filabot device which were made by Kickstarter backers for $350. The first set of the device were delivered to all backers who had pledged their money before any major productions of the machine began.

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Printrbot Logo3D printers can print almost everything you can imagine, from  Shoes to Guns to Airplanes; they can even print Food.

However, for some reason, 3D printing still isn’t a commonly used technology.

What’s the reason, you ask? Well, one major reason is the high cost of 3D printers.

Prices of good printers start from $1500 for small, plastic extrusion printers and go up to more than $100,000 dollars for large metal printers making them unaffordable for most people.

Printrbot, a company started as a Kickstarter project two years ago, wishes to overcome this obstacle by providing everyone with simple, low-cost additive printers (priced as low as $350).

The Kickstarter Project

In September 2011, Brook Drumm, a web developer, had an idea about bringing 3D printing to the masses. To collect funds for his idea, he started the Printrbot Kickstarter Project. Actually, he wanted to create a 3D printer that was both cheap enough for everyone to buy and simple enough for everyone to assemble and operate.

He set his initial funding goal at $25,000. At the end of the donation period, perhaps even he himself was surprised when he achieved a total donation of $830,000, more than 30 times his original target! This made Printrbot the highest funded technology project in Kickstarter’s history.

The Printrbot 3D Printers

Brook DrummBuilding upon the momentum and funds from the Kickstarter project, Brook Drumm created the Printrbot Company, specializing in the manufacture and sale of low-cost 3D printers. As of April 2014, the company offers 4 different types of 3D printers at varying prices. Furthermore, these printers are available in assembled and kit forms:

  1. Printrbot Simple: With a build volume of 4x4x4 inches, its price is $349 for the kit and $449 for the assembled printer.
  2. Printrbot Junior: It has a build volume of 6x6x6 inches and its price is $599 for the kit and $699 for the assembled printer.
  3. Printrbot Plus: Its build volume is 8x8x8 inches and price is $899 for the kit and $999 for the assembled printer.
  4. Printrbot Go: Its build volume is 8x7x6 inches and its kit and assembled printer are both priced above $1000.

An all-metal Printrbot Simple is just starting to become available too at the time of writing this.

So, how do these printers work? Well, objects are first designed using computer software and then sent to the printer using a specialized software called Pronterface. The Printrbot 3D printers then print them by using the Fused Deposition Modeling technique in which plastic (either PLA or ABS) is melted and deposited layer by layer.

Each new layer cools down after some time and fuses with the layer below it. This process continues till a complete three-dimensional object is formed. Brook Drumm aptly explains his company and printers on his YouYube Channel

Printrbot vs Other 3D Printers

Perhaps you’re thinking here: “So what? There are hundreds of 3D printers out there. Nothing new here.” Actually, the Printrbot printers enjoy several advantages over the other 3D printers in the market.

Firstly, Printrbot models are among the cheapest 3D printers you can find on the market. Starting at $349, these are ideal for the consumers who have a limited budget or who are just beginning with 3D printing.

Another major problem with most 3D printers today is that they’re too complex for ordinary people. Either their assembly or their operation requires a lot of technical knowledge so they are really intended for professionals instead of hobbyists.

The Printrbot solves this problem too. Brook Drumm claims that Printrbots are the simplest printers available today; so simple that even kids can build complete printers from kits. Also, while most other 3D printer kits take hours to build, the Printrbot kits can be assembled in less than an hour. Brook Drumm explains these features in the following words:

“These Printrbots really address a couple of problems that I see with the printers that are out there today: One is the build time … and the other is simplicity”

Long-Term Goals

With Printrbot, Brook aims to do a lot more than simply provide printers at low prices. He has his eye on several daunting long term goals:

  • Printrbots EverywhereA Printer in Every House: The first thing that the Printrbot project aims for is to make 3D printers so common that every home and Every School of the world has one. Brook wants Printrbots to be the first printers kids see and operate in their school. He wants all people to print out Plastic Parts Such as Toys in their homes instead of buying them from shops. He writes:

“(I am) in pursuit of the dream of ‘a printer in every home’… (for this) we will soon focus solely on pushing the price of these printers to the absolute lowest sustainable retail price for kits and fully assembled printers.”

Needless to say, this is easier said than done. However, if his dream is realized, the 3D printing revolution will reach every corner of the planet.

  • RepRap IdeaThe RepRap Purpose: Another thing that Brook aims for is to make Printrbots into True RepRap Machines. This means that he wants all Printrbots to be able to print more 3D printers. How will he do it? Simply by reducing the complexity of 3D printers. He wants individuals, companies and schools to buy Printrbots, make more printers themselves and donate them to other people. In his own words:

“I believe in the original RepRap.org purpose: To build a self-replicating machine.”

This will also go a long way in making 3D printers more common.

A World Full of 3D Printers

While several challenges need to be overcome before 3D Printing Becomes Mainstream, projects like Printrbot are promising to overcome them.

If Brook’s dream becomes a reality, then a decade or two from now, we’ll be living in a world where there will be no shortage of 3D printers. It will be a world full of 3D printers, full of Printrbots.

Will you buy one of these Printrbots for yourself or your kids? Let us know in the comments section, then share this article with your friends.

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