DCycle is a closed loop recycling program to collect 3D printed plastic waste, and convert it back into usable spooled filament. The recycled filament is then sold back to customers at a discounted rate.
Created by third year Mechanical Engineering student Daniel Williams, DCycle currently has 40 recycling bins positioned throughout South Australia in schools, universities and libraries.
There are six steps to recycle the waste plastic into filament - waste, shred, extrude, spool, check and print. After collection the waste plastic is shred into smaller pieces, so it can be fed into a filament extrusion machine. The extruder heats the plastic and uses an auger to extrude the plastic into filament, which is spooled, and quality checked to ensure its suitability for use.
Williams first became interested in 3D printer recycling when he was in high school.
“I first learnt about 3D printing when I was in high school, I used it fairly frequently because I did a Year 12 course pretty much on CAD Modelling,” Williams said.
“I just kept seeing the waste plastic taken off these 3D printers chucked in the bin, it was such a shock because I’ve grown up with everything always being recycled at home. My parents used to deliver their cardboard down to the council chambers before they had recycling bins and everything like that, I always found it (3D Printing waste) to be a massive waste of materials.”
Following the completion of his schooling Williams got the idea to start up DCycle and help out with 3D printing waste.
“I bought my own 3D printer once I graduated and I realised that it is quite a big problem and then I learnt about all this machinery I could purchase and actually convert it back into it. I thought why not start it up, no one else is doing it and this is the perfect opportunity.”
DCycle has seen some great results throughout the state of South Australia already, many materials that would’ve just gone to waste have been recycled and repurposed into completely usable spool filament.
Williams believes there is plenty of room for the program to continue growing.
“Well the hope is to have a bin in every school and place in the state which has a 3D printer,” Williams said.
“We would then sell the recycled filament back to them so then they can use sustainably sourced plastic, making a circular economy.
“Possibly we could even grow interstate. It can happen anywhere in the world, the machinery is readily accessible and once I figure out how the details work we could expand to other locations around Australia.”