Working as an intern for a robotics company means that no two days are the same, and here at OmniDynamics our Product Design Intern, Ashley Yu, has been developing a new product to our line. Read on to discover more about the Re-Strooder, and why recycling is so important to us…
Can you summarise what it is the Strooder does?
The Strooder enables people to take recycled plastic pellets and transform them into usable 3D filament for 3D printing.
It does this by inserting plastic pellets into the machine which speeds up the extrusion of the material to produce long strips of filament before being wound up by a spooler to make the filament neat and tidy for use on the 3D printer. There is also a graphic user interface which enables users to select how they want their filament to be produced, with various choices of temperature, size of filament, and colour of plastic adjusted to fit their needs.
The Strooder itself is designed for the desktop but is also lightweight enough to carry around the lab, with an aesthetically pleasing unique triangular shape and range of colours to choose from. It is environmentally friendly in that little plastic is being wasted, but is also safe to use by people with little technical knowledge.
And what about the Re-Strooder – what does that do?
The Re-Strooder is has more of a recycling focus: it is designed to enable users to recycle their plastic waste into useable plastic pellets that can then be fed into the Strooder to produce 3D filament. The Re-Strooder joins up the whole process for us here at OmniDynamics, allowing people who want to use 3D printing to do so with the smallest plastic footprint possible.
What has been the most challenging part of designing the Re-Strooder?
The most challenging aspect of the Re-Strooder is making the body of the Re-Strooder from the original prototype more detailed, and creating an electronic circuit that links the various components together via wires and PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards) like the motor, which powers the cutting wheels, power switches, and LEDs.
This involved an element of research into electrical components, and the various calculations and iterations into the cutting of plastic in the product and the power of the motor for performance were also challenging, as they required a lot of creativity.
For example, for determining the optimum size of wheels, I had to sketch on Autodesk Fusion 360 how the wheels would cut the plastic in a 2D view, and from this I would then find out the size of each plastic piece and the rotational speed of the wheel between each cut, enabling me to determine the forces and power required for cutting the plastic.
Once the design was completed, I then sourced the relevant components at the most economic price without compromising performance and the environment. There are a number of components needed to make the Re-Strooder, but not all of them may be available at the right size and at time of need, hence I needed to find different solutions to work around this, such as laser cutting the acrylic and metal sheets at a manufacturing facility in Bristol.
Why do you think reusing plastic is so important?
Reusing plastic is very important to ensure less plastic waste is produced, leading to a reduction in greenhouse gases released into the environment, in turn ensuring that the air we breathe is fresh and clean. It also means that money is not wasted on having to buy new plastic, which can do exactly the same job as required. Better performance is achieved from less resources and investment available, which could be useful elsewhere.
The usage of plastic is more than just making plastic bottles and ensuring that objects look aesthetically pleasing; as proved with the work I have done at OmniDynamics, it can also be used to make filament for 3D printers, which in itself manufactures parts that are strong and lightweight in a very sustainable manner. That’s why it is more economically and environmentally sustainable than before to 3D print objects from re-used material.
What do you think is the future for 3D printing?
Helping to create a sustainable future not just in the robotics industry, but in all other fields concerned. As conventional manufacturing methods become more and more out-dated in the ever-changing world, 3D printing is fast becoming popular in creating objects of everyday use without impacting both the economy and the environment as conventional methods do.
There is also the potential for 3D printing to be useful in the medical industry as it helps to save lives, young and old, by creating 3D printed human organs for testing in practice operations to determine the possibilities of something going drastically wrong – before the actual surgery takes place.
For example, doctors recently used a 3D printed replica of a kidney donated by the father of a patient to find out if the surgery would be possible. Many steps that were time-consuming were removed when the 3D model of the kidney that exactly matched the anatomy of both father and patient was created. Although the machine was expensive, it was compensated for by the significant reduction in time for the operation to be performed – and this can be done for multiple patients. This shows that 3D printing could have a big say in how medication and treatment is given to patients in hospitals and beyond.
Thank you Ashley for sharing your expertise and insight with us – both as our Product Design Intern, and for this chat! If you want to learn more about Ashley’s role here at OmniDynamics, click here.