Think Globally, Build Locally With These Open-Source Recycling Machines

Walk on almost any beach or look on the side of most roads and you’ll see the bottles, bags, and cast-off scraps of a polymeric alphabet soup – HDPE, PET, ABS, PP, PS. Municipal recycling programs might help, but what would really solve the problem would be decentralized recycling, and these open-source plastics recycling machines might just jump-start that effort.

We looked at [Precious Plastic] two years back, and their open-source plans for small-scale plastic recycling machines have come a long way since then. They currently include a shredder, a compression molder, an injection molder, and a filament extruder. The plans specify some parts that need to be custom fabricated, like the shredder’s laser-cut stainless steel teeth, but most can be harvested from a scrapyard. As you can see from the videos after the break, metal and electrical fabrication skills are assumed, but the builds are well within the reach of most hackers. Plans for more machines are in the works, and there’s plenty of room to expand and improve upon the designs.

We think [Precious Plastic] is onto something here. Maybe a lot of small recyclers is a better approach than huge municipal efforts, which don’t seem to be doing much to help.  Decentralized recycling can create markets that large-scale manufacturing can’t be bothered to tap, especially in the developing world. After all, we’ve already seen a plastic recycling factory built from recycled parts making cool stuff in Brazil.

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Ask Hackaday: Is PLA Biodegradable?

The most popular plastic for 3D printers is PLA – polylactic acid – a plastic that’s either derived from corn starch, inedible plant detritus, or sugar cane, depending where in the world it was manufactured. Being derived from natural materials, PLA is marketed as being biodegradable. You don’t need to worry about low-poly Pokemon and other plastic trinkets filling landfills when you’re printing with PLA, all these plastic baubles will return to the Earth from whence it came.

3D printers have been around for a few years now, and now objects printed in PLA have been around the sun a few times. A few of these objects have been completely forgotten. How’s that claim of being biodegradable holding up? The results are mixed, and as always, more data is needed.

A few weeks ago, [LazyGecko] found one of his first experiments in 3D printing. In 2012, he was experimenting with tie dying PLA prints by putting his prints in a jar filled with water and blue dye. This jar was then placed in the back of his cupboard and quickly forgotten. 3.5 years later, [LazyGecko] remembered his experiment. Absolutely nothing happened, save for a little bit of blue dye turning the print a pastel baby blue. The print looks and feels exactly like the day it came off the printer.

[LazyGecko]’s blog post was noticed by [Bill Waters], and he has one datum that points to PLA being biodegradable. In 2015, [Bill] printed a filter basket for his fish tank. The first filter basket worked well, but made a small design change a week later, printed out another, and put the first print in storage. He now has two nearly identical prints, one in constant use in a biologically interesting environment, the other sitting on a shelf for a year.

[Bill]’s inadvertent experiment is very close to the best possible experimental design to make the case for PLA biodegradability. The 3D printed filter basket in constant use for a year suffered significant breakdown, and the honeycomb walls are starting to crumble. The ‘inert’ printed filter basket looks like it just came off the build plate.

If that’s not confusing enough, [Bill] also has another print that has spent a year in a fish tank. This end cap for a filter spray bar didn’t see any degradation, despite being underwater in a biologically active environment. The environment is a little different from a filter basket, though; an aquarium filter is designed to break down organics.

To answer the question, ‘is PLA biodegradable,’ the most accurate answer is, ‘maybe’. Three data points in uncontrolled environments isn’t enough to draw any conclusions. There are, undoubtedly, more forgotten 3D prints out there, and more data to back up the claim of PLA being biodegradable.

This is where you come in. Do you have some forgotten prints out there? Your input is needed, the fruits of your labors are evidence, your prints might be decaying and we want to know about it below.

Tiny Open Source Robot

We watched the video introduction for this little open source robot, and while we’re not 100% sure we want tiny glowing eyes watching us while we sleep, it does seem to be a nice little platform for hacking. The robot is a side project of [Matthew], who’s studying for a degree in Information Science.

The robot has little actuated grippy arms for holding a cell phone in the front. When it’t not holding a cellphone it can use its two little ultrasonic senors to run around without bumping into things. We like the passive balancing used on the robot. Rather than having a complicated self-balancing set-up, the robot just uses little ball casters to provide the other righting points of contact.

The head of the robot has plenty of space for whatever flavor of Arduino you prefer. A few hours of 3D printing and some vitamins is all you need to have a little robot shadow lurking in your room. Video after the break.

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Seven Segment Clock Made From Scratch

[David Hopkins] built a seven segment clock, but not in a way you would think.  Typically, if one wants to make something like this, one would start off with some seven segment LEDs. [David] wanted to kick it up a notch and use RGB LEDs to get access to the wide array of different colors, but found off the shelf assemblies cost prohibitive. So, he did what any good hacker would do. He made his own.

clockThe easy part consists of Neopixels, an Arduino Nano and a DS3231 Real Time Clock. The hard part consists of Plasticard and a polymorph diffuser. Plasticard also goes by the name of Polystyrene and comes in sheets. [David] describes Polymorph as a type of moldable nylon that softens with heat, with a working temperature low enough that boiling water will suffice.

He was able to cut out the individual segments to make an impressive looking desk clock.

Building A Dead-On-Accurate Model Ford Pickup From Scratch

In a world filled with 3D printed this and CNC machined that, it’s always nice to see someone who still does things the old-fashioned way. [Headquake137] built a radio controlled truck body (YouTube link) from wood and polystyrene using just a saw, a Dremel, a hobby knife, and a lot of patience. This is one of those builds that blurs the lines between scale model and sculpture. There aren’t too many pickup trucks one might call “iconic” but if we were to compile a list, the 6th generation Ford F-series would be on it. [Headquake137’s] model is based on a 1977 F100.

ford-thumb2The build starts with the slab sides of the truck. The basic outline is cut into a piece of lumber which is then split with a handsaw to create a left and a right side. From there, [Headquake137’s] uses a Dremel to carve away anything that doesn’t look like a 1977 F100. He adds pieces of wood for the roof, hood, tailgate, and the rest of the major body panels. Small details like the grille and instrument panel are created with white polystyrene sheet, an easy to cut material often used by train and car modelers.

When the paint starts going on, the model really comes to life. [Headquake137] weathers the model to look like it’s seen a long life on the farm. The final part of the video covers the test drive of the truck, now mounted to a custom chassis. The chassis is designed for trails and rock crawling, so it’s no speed demon, but it sure does look the part riding trails out in the woods!

[Headquake137] managed to condense what must have been a 60 or 70 hour build down to a 14 minute video found below.

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A Different Kind of Plastic Shredder for 3D Filament Making

Haven’t you heard? You can make your own 3D filament nowadays from plastic granules (10X cheaper than filament), or even by recycling old plastic! Except if you’re recycling plastic you will have to shred it first…

[David Watkins] came up with a different way of shredding plastic. Typically we’ve seen shrunken versions of giant metal shredders used to dice up plastic into granules that can be melted down and then extruded back into filament. These work with a series of sharp toothed gears that kind of look like a stack of circular saw blades put together inside of a housing.

But that can be rather pricey. [David’s] method is super cheap, and you can do it at home with minimal tools, and maybe $10 or less worth of parts?

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Adding Recycling Codes To 3D Prints

Every little plastic bauble you interact with has some sort of recycling code on it somewhere. Now that we’re producing plastic 3D printed parts at home, it would be a good idea to agree on how to recycle all those parts, and [Joshua Pearce]’s lab at Michigan Tech has the answer; since we’re printing these objects, we can just print the recycling code right in the object.

The US system of plastic recycling codes is particularly ill-suited for identifying what kind of plastic the object in question is made of; there are only seven codes, while China’s system of plastic identification uses 140 identification codes. This system for labeling 3D printed parts borrows heavily from the Chinese system, assigning ABS as ‘9’, PLA as ’92’, and HIPS as ‘108’.

With agreed upon recycling codes, the only thing left to do is to label every print with the correct recycling code. That’s an easy task with a few OpenSCAD scripts – the paper shows off a wrench made out of HIPS labeled with the correct code, and an ABS drill bit handle sporting a number nine. 3D printing opens up a few interesting manufacturing techniques, and the research team shows this off with a PLA vase with a recycle code lithophane embedded in the first few layers.