Not everyone is aware of the possibility of 3D printing used to recycle discarded plastic into new forms. That’s why the Taipei-based company Fabraft has taken to the streets of Taiwan to show off the process of printing recycled plastic. And they’re doing it in style, too, with their Mobile Fab-mounted bicycle.
The Mobile Fab device is a plastic recycler that, using a series of pumps, tubes and wires, grinds No.5 plastic into a fine powder, which is fed into the 3D printer attached to the front of the bike. Passersby are invited to bring pieces of discarded polypropylene, the only plastic Fabraft can handle for the moment, to their bike. After a couple of hours, processing and printing the material, they’re rewarded with such items as a Fabraft medallion, to be inserted into the spokes of their own bicycles. Best of all, there’s no charge, just plastic.
Fabraft was partially launched thanks to government funds to develop Taipei into the World Design Capital for 2016, a designation awarded by International Council of Societies of Industrial Design in Montreal, Canada. One of the company’s founders, Kamm Kai-yu, explains their goal with the mobile lab: “We wanted to do something to bring both recycling and 3D printing closer to average people.” Fabraft, housed in a garage-style workshop, is the hackerspace you might imagine it to be, filled with DIY gear and festooned with posters that say things like, “Keep Calm and Make Things” and “Make What You Love, Love What You Make.” Matteo Chen, another co-founder, echoes their Maker philosophy, “We built everything from scratch using designs and instructions freely available online.”
Not only has their fab bike informed those in the community about the real-world practicality of recycling plastic, such as the No.5 plastic cups found all about Taiwan for its use in serving pearl-milk tea, but it’s done a great job of advertising their company. With so much interest from passersby, Fabraft plans to make an even larger version of their mobile fab lab with stronger printing power. Maybe if the company gets really really really big, they’ll send some of those bikes over to the United States. My local San Pedro has a detriment of 3D printers and Los Angeles, as a whole, has no public recycling receptacles whatsoever. For being located in a supposedly eco-friendly part of the country, we sure could use someone that will teach us about recycling.