Jan 3, 2016 | By Benedict

Recycled 3D printing filaments have been on the market for some time, with companies like InnoCircle and Better Future Factory delivering high quality recycled products on a mass scale. However, many customers are either reluctant to trust recycled filament over more established alternatives, or simply cannot find a recycled option in their desired material, color or price range.

But what about those areas of the world in which 3D printing is yet to fully get off the ground? In markets where there is no established leader in filament sales, could recycled filament establish itself as the 3D printing norm? One organization certainly believes so.

ReFlow is a social enterprise making high quality PET 3D printing filament from plastic collected in developing countries. To accelerate the production of recycled 3D printing filament, the organization has designed a <$1,000 extruder for converting scrap plastic into filament, which is already being used in small-scale production facilities all over the world.

The manifesto of ReFlow is twofold: to establish 3D printing ecosystems in developing countries, and to improve the livelihood of waste pickers. The organization predicts 3D printing to find its next market in emerging economies, due to the technology’s freedom from transport costs, oil prices and international trade links. Africa in particular is seen as a likely location for a 3D printing revolution, in which individuals and companies will gain the power to make products freely and independently.

To bring forth the onset of this additive manufacturing revolution, ReFlow has set up a number of small production facilities in Africa and other areas around the world. Waste pickers in these areas collect plastic, which can then be recycled and turned into 3D printing filament. 30% of the considerable profits made from sales of the high quality filament can then be passed on to the local pickers, helping to lift them out of the poverty trap, whilst simultaneously establishing a 3D printing ecosystem in the local area.

The process is a relatively simple one: ReFlow works with local waste pickers to collect PET bottles, which are then sorted and thoroughly cleaned. The plastic is then shredded, before being fed through ReFlow’s open-source extruder for conversion into high quality 3D printing filament. With the help of universities, maker spaces and corporate partners, each batch is then thoroughly tested, before being sold to keen customers.

Images from OpenIDEO

The ambitious project grew from a collaboration between with Enviu, a a not-for-profit startup developer, and techfortrade, an NGO specializing in technology and economic development. The three organizations pooled their resources and expertise to launch ReFab Dar, a Tanzania based plastic waste recycling program.

ReFlow currently supports local 3D printing initiatives in Oaxaca, Mexico; Bogota, Colombia; Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The organization is currently testing the suitability of different 3D printed product lines, from iPhone cases to microscopes and headphones, for the local Tanzanian market.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Johan Frenchrock wrote at 2/9/2016 6:50:58 PM:

Wait. That is vergin plastic filament, this is a greenwashing scam. ! Shame on you

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