Filabot: A Waste Plastic to Filament Recycling Machine

by Matthew Wellington on April 21, 2014

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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