A group of American university students has invented the world's first plastic recycling 3D printer.

The ProtoCycler 3D printer is able to grind up waste plastic and convert it into a spool of plastic filament that can be used to print 3D designs.

It will take any plastic - think bottles, takeaway containers, or even pieces of Lego.
Currently, a store-bought spool of plastic starts from around NZ$30 and is unable to be reused if the printed product is flawed. In comparison, the ProtoCycler costs nothing to run if plastic waste is used.

Dennon Oosterman, one of the three engineering physics students behind the recycling design, said the trio was concerned about the amount of plastic each of them were using in their engineering projects.

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"So we looked for a way to recycle that plastic back into usable filament," he said.
At around NZ$900 a pop, on the cheaper side of printers currently on the market which can reach up to $5000 in New Zealand retail stores, the group hope the device will be adopted by schools.

"Schools are including 3D printing as part of their science and technology curriculum, but the cost of having each student try a project can quickly become unaffordable," Oosterman said.

"With ProtoCycler, the students can try over and over until it's perfect, nearly for free, without harming the environment."

At the end of last year New Zealand secondary schools were given free access to 3D design software and The Green Party has previously called for 3D technology to be freely available in all schools.

The principal of Auroa Primary School, Heath Chittenden, said his school had prioritised investing in 3D technology.

Year 7 and 8 students have access to 3D design technology and one of the six 3D printers purchased by the school.

He said the future of the workforce would require people to be more skilled in designing products than physically manufacturing or building them themselves.

"Where 3D printing can sit in education is not as a novelty but as a genuine learning context for people to live in," he said.

"If children know the product they produced is going to be out there and used by people they are always going to strive to do better because they see there is a reason for learning."

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