Precious Plastic Program

Anything worthwhile starts with an alliteration. . .

We’re excited to officially join with efforts at Precious Plastic to reduce plastic waste in our community directly – this project is supported by our awesome neighborhood association:

We’ll be working forward to re-use some industrial surplus plastic extruders with a target goal of producing dimensional stock (lumber shapes) that can be used for projects in the neighborhood. If you’d like to help with the construction of the machines, testing, or have ideas on generally useful continuously-extruded plastic products please reach out. We won’t be ready for material collection until we’ve had a chance to test things out and get a batch worked through all the steps!

The Backstory:

Our work recycling/reusing plastic began at the very first Sector67 meeting at our Winnebago St location in 2010 with Scott sharing his DIY benchtop injection molder used to create train wheels for a wooden train system following the Gingery design:

Injection molder at left, Scott red shirt at center.

The very first thing ever machined on our CNC mill was a mold to manufacture gears from laundry detergent bottles:

Nothing like making both halves at the same time in an “all or nothing” approach

A little short shot (right) turned into a lot of flash (left) once the mold warmed up and separated under pressure.

We went on to make a nicer system that went into the drill press:

And tried for more difficult molds/designs.

The challenge with injection molding is that it uses very little plastic and requires a lot of mold/demold time that’s normally fully automated with a production machine.

Many years later our interns took on a project to try extruding 3D printer filament by building the extruder and using an off the shelf winding/tensioning system with some modified software:

Bicycle parts and a wood drill auger bit at left (plus heaters) melt and extrude filament down, filament loops through a line laser (black bar at center bottom) and comes back up to a white winder and tensioner at right.

Making our own filament made sense when the raw stock was free, the issue being it’s unavailable in affordable small quantities as it’s really only an industrial product where manufacturers burn through it by the ton. The other difficulty is keeping the input plastic exceptionally clean, the 3D printer nozzle is only 0.40mm in diameter so even the smallest contaminants stand to block up the nozzle in short order. Ultimately this project was shelved with the wide availability of inexpensive 3D printer filament as machines dropped in price and demand grew.

In 2019 interns Sadiq and David worked with Ida to build a standalone drill press molder for a pilot run of Precious Plastic at Troy Community Garden:

Inspired by the real chickens

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