A team of University of Washington students has developed a machine that can "print" large plastic objects out of garbage.
When he was working for the Peace Corps in Ghana and Panama, Matthew Rogge started to dream of turning waste plastic, abundant and freely available, into useful objects that would solve vexing Third World engineering problems.
He and a team of University of Washington students have done it.
Last week, Rogge — who went back to school to become a mechanical engineer precisely to learn how to do this — and two fellow student engineers won an international competition for their proposal to turn plastic garbage into composting toilets.
They've developed an inexpensive 3-D printer that can turn shredded, melted plastic waste into just about anything.
3-D printers have been around for at least 25 years, although they have become more widely available, better-known and cheaper in recent years. They use computer-aided design to create three-dimensional objects by laying down super-thin layers of a material, such as plastic, much like a regular printer lays down ink.
But until now, nobody had figured out how to cheaply build a large-scale printer that used recycled plastic as its raw material, said UW mechanical-engineering professor Mark Ganter. ...