Additive Manufacturing turns the plastic waste problem into a solution for saving lives

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As a cyclone raged through the Solomon Islands, a man clutched a running 3D printer to his chest to prevent it from being blown away in the fierce winds. The machine continued printing parts for vital infrastructure while his colleagues held down the solar panels powering it. That man was Dr. Mazher Mohammed, and that 3D printer was a LulzBot Mini. Issues with acquiring goods and disposing of waste are nothing new to island communities. The citizens of Honiara, the Solomon Islands’ capital city, struggled with huge amounts of plastic waste clogging the waterways and killing off marine life. In addition, their access to clean water was extremely limited by leaky, disintegrating infrastructure with no parts to make repairs. The two seemingly distinct problems presented an interesting opportunity in the eyes of Dr. Mohammed.

If we’d wanted to test everything in the harshest and most non-ideal circumstances possible – bar doing things underwater – we got them. And that was good, because ultimately these are the conditions the printers would be operating in and we figured if we can do it in a cyclone, high humidity and torrential rain, we can do it pretty much anywhere,”

-Dr. Mazher Mohammed, Senior Research Fellow at Deakin University’s School of Engineering.

Environmental Innovation with LulzBot 3D Printers

3D Printing in the Solomon Islands

He and his colleagues teamed up with aid agency Plan International, and local volunteers, to start solving both problems concurrently, turning waste into the needed parts for infrastructure repair. Their process involves grinding waste plastic into rice-sized pellets, which are then converted into 3D printer filament with a portable filament extrusion machine. The team designs pipes, fittings, gaskets, and seals, as needed and prints them on LulzBot Mini 3D Printers.


FLO: Open Source Hardware Enables Extreme 3D Printing

3D Printed Pipe Fittings

The ultimate goal of this endeavor is to make 3D printing technology available to those in disaster zones and developing countries, particularly those without reliable access to power. The Open Source nature of LulzBot 3D Printers enabled the team to modify their LulzBot Mini to run directly off a nanogrid system working at 24 volts, bypassing the internal power supply to accommodate a connector for direct solar power.

Solomon Islanders Watch a 3D Printer

“Keep making great printers, LulzBot!!”

Dr. Mohammed cited durability and ease-of-use among his favorite LulzBot Mini features.

“After 3D printing during cyclonic conditions using recycled plastics, without a single failed print, I believe the LulzBot Mini is an exceptional printer capable of working in the harshest of conditions! We are ready to go out of the box.”



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Source: The article was gently conceded by Aleph Objects,2018 published on Jul 20, 2018;

All multimedia content licensed CC-BY-SA © Deakin University School of Engineering

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