Jul 26, 2016 | By Alec

Recycling: is there anyone who principally opposes it? No, of course not. Everyone believes that recycling is a good thing, and yet most of us don’t recycle everything for the simple reason that it’s just too much work. What’s more, we don’t see the results at all – so what does it matter? If only recycling was as simple as buying a can of soda at a vending machine, where you throw in some waste and get a recycled product immediately. That, at least, was the idea a team of Italian students from a small town in Sicily had. Finding their solution in 3D printing, they built a vending machine for 3D printed smartphone covers made from recycled materials.

This remarkable concept is called the MyProGeneration, and is currently a vending machine prototype. It was built by students Marco Tomasello, Daniele Caputo, Vincenzo Virruso, Vittorio Maggiore, Toni Taormina, and their teacher, Daniela Russo, who were aiming to inspire their generation to be more conscious about their trash. And as many plastics are perfectly recyclable, they came up with an accessible, tangible solution aimed at localized recycling that shows the difference you’re making. The concept itself was so impressive that they just won AXA Italy’s Social ImpactAward last month, and the students themselves are overwhelmed by the interest their machine is generating.

So how does it work? Well, it’s essentially a vending machine that hides a lot of desktop 3D printing equipment in its body. Plastic bottles can be inserted into a slot, which are grinded down into pellets using a grinding unit. These can then be melted to be used by a 3D printer, which has been pre-programmed to 3D print various smartphone cases. And as you can see above and below, these look great.

At the press of a button, one of those cases can be selected by whoever inserted enough bottles. Recyclable plastic has thus replaced money as currency, so you have to collect bottles if you want a new case. Presumably, the smartphone cases are ready-made as no one wants to wait two hours at a vending machine – but the concept is brilliant nonetheless.

These are presumably not 3D printed from plastic, but available as a reward nonetheless.

Of course this would be even more impressive if it was an on-demand recycling 3D printer that accepts custom orders, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. As the students revealed, four different prototypes are already in action and they are in talks with distributors and manufacturers to turn this into a practical reality. They are also aiming to allow users to customize the cases with a photo or selfie in the future.

Can you imagine a 3D printing recycling unit in schools all over the world? If something so tangible – and so connected to the continuously used smartphones – won’t convince the next generation of the merits of recycling, nothing will.

The 3D printer vending machine visible at the 37 second mark.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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