Portable, off-grid 3D Gigalab can turn trash into treasure

during a pandemic beat, Supply Chain Broken. Not only is general cargo difficult to transport, but the global shipping network is unable to supply workers with enough cargo personal protective equipment to reduce deadlock.Around that time, 3D printing companies Re: 3D Start planning, not just how to provide face shields and other personal protective equipment, but how to skip some shipping issues altogether.

GigaLab It was the culmination of that project. With Gigalab, re:3D aims to provide everything needed to turn recyclable materials like water bottles or plastic cups into useful goods. The setup consists of three main components. The granulator shreds the used plastic. Next, a dryer removes excess moisture. Finally, the Gigabot X 3D printer… er, um, it prints objects. You’ll also need some desk space for work like cutting plastic bottles.

Photo: Eric Ravenscraft

All in a container that can be sent anywhere in the world. To put it more simply: it’s a portable laboratory where trash goes in and out of treasure.

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The key to making the lab work is massive innovation in a small part of the 3D printing process: the extruder. Most 3D printers use an extrusion system to create objects by heating plastic and pressing it through a nozzle onto a print bed. If you’ve seen a consumer-grade 3D printer, you’ve probably seen this plastic in the form of filament, but some printers use pellets instead. These small processed spheres or cylinders flow smoothly into extrusion systems, but they are easier to package and can be fed continuously to some 3D printers.

Pelletizing recyclable materials, such as used plastic bottles, often means shipping the material to a processing center.There, they are melted, shaped into pellets, and transported to where they are needed (this sometimes results in pellets getting lost in transit and pollute the environment).

this Gigabot XHowever, the granulation process can be skipped entirely. Unlike most 3D printers, it can use shredded plastic (irregularly shaped and don’t flow like pellets) without jamming and causing the print to fail. This means that used plastic can be shredded directly in Gigalab’s granulator. After a short stay in the dryer to remove excess moisture, they can be poured directly into the Gigabot X’s feeder.

Plastic bottles and cups are the most obvious raw materials, but Gigalab can handle more. At a meetup in Austin during SXSW, re:3D showed me leftover plastic sheets for printing driver licenses. These can be thrown into a granulator, Re:3D ambassador Charlotte Craff told Wired.even supporting structure A 3D print that needs to work properly can be broken off and re-granulated for the next print.

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