Italian students build vending machine that turns recycled plastic into 3D printed smartphone cases

Jul 26, 2016 | By Alec

Recycling: is there anyone who principally opposes it? No, of course not. Everyone believes that recycling is a good thing, and yet most of us don’t recycle everything for the simple reason that it’s just too much work. What’s more, we don’t see the results at all – so what does it matter? If only recycling was as simple as buying a can of soda at a vending machine, where you throw in some waste and get a recycled product immediately. That, at least, was the idea a team of Italian students from a small town in Sicily had. Finding their solution in 3D printing, they built a vending machine for 3D printed smartphone covers made from recycled materials.

This remarkable concept is called the MyProGeneration, and is currently a vending machine prototype. It was built by students Marco Tomasello, Daniele Caputo, Vincenzo Virruso, Vittorio Maggiore, Toni Taormina, and their teacher, Daniela Russo, who were aiming to inspire their generation to be more conscious about their trash. And as many plastics are perfectly recyclable, they came up with an accessible, tangible solution aimed at localized recycling that shows the difference you’re making. The concept itself was so impressive that they just won AXA Italy’s Social ImpactAward last month, and the students themselves are overwhelmed by the interest their machine is generating.

So how does it work? Well, it’s essentially a vending machine that hides a lot of desktop 3D printing equipment in its body. Plastic bottles can be inserted into a slot, which are grinded down into pellets using a grinding unit. These can then be melted to be used by a 3D printer, which has been pre-programmed to 3D print various smartphone cases. And as you can see above and below, these look great.

At the press of a button, one of those cases can be selected by whoever inserted enough bottles. Recyclable plastic has thus replaced money as currency, so you have to collect bottles if you want a new case. Presumably, the smartphone cases are ready-made as no one wants to wait two hours at a vending machine – but the concept is brilliant nonetheless.

These are presumably not 3D printed from plastic, but available as a reward nonetheless.

Of course this would be even more impressive if it was an on-demand recycling 3D printer that accepts custom orders, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. As the students revealed, four different prototypes are already in action and they are in talks with distributors and manufacturers to turn this into a practical reality. They are also aiming to allow users to customize the cases with a photo or selfie in the future.

Can you imagine a 3D printing recycling unit in schools all over the world? If something so tangible – and so connected to the continuously used smartphones – won’t convince the next generation of the merits of recycling, nothing will.

The 3D printer vending machine visible at the 37 second mark.

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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3-D Printers for Libraries (Library Technology Reports)

As the maker movement continues to grow and 3-D printers become more affordable, an expanding group of hobbyists is keen to explore this new technology. In the time-honored tradition of introducing new technologies, many libraries are considering purchasing a 3-D printer. Jason Griffey, an early enthusiast of 3-D printing, has researched the marketplace and seen several systems first hand at the Consumer Electronics Show. In this report he introduces readers to the 3-D printing marketplace, covering such topics as

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California Passed a Law Requiring Registration of 3D-Printed Guns

3D-printed Blackstar Arms rifle. Image: Mitch Barrie/Flickr

On Friday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation requiring anyone who makes or assembles a homemade firearm to apply for a serial number or “other mark of identification” from the state Department of Justice. This means passing a background check. Said measure, one of several new gun restrictions signed by Brown, mandates that said identification be permanently affixed to the weapon, and, moreover, forbids the sale or transfer of self-assembled firearms.

The new law is an overt response to the 3D printing boom as well as the increasing sale of “unfinished” lower receivers. These are somewhat modular gun components encompassing trigger, firing pin, and ammunition feeding mechanisms. While the finished versions of lower receivers have historically been subject to the same laws as regular old long guns, unfinished versions requiring only a few small tweaks have offered a gun buyers a fudge. The new law aims to close this loophole.

“Homemade guns may be of very poor quality and extremely unsafe”

A bit more subtly, the bill goes after would-be undetectable plastic guns, mandating that in order to pass California state muster, the are required to have a piece of stainless steel embedded somewhere such that they’ll register in a metal detector.

As for the no sale/transfer clause, an argument put forth on the state Senate floor back in may by the California Chapters for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence states: “Homemade guns may be of very poor quality and extremely unsafe and should therefore only be for personal use. At this point, many 3-D printed guns explode when they are fired. The technology will, no doubt, improve but it is unlikely that these guns would ever meet basic firing or drop tests and such unsafe guns should not be transferable.” (ATF testing in 2013 found that some popular models do indeed have a habit of exploding.)

Naturally, the NRA and gun rights groups are furious. The president of the Firearms Policy Coalition offered the totally hyperbole-free declaration that “Today’s action by Governor Brown shows how craven California’s despotic ruling class has become. The Legislature has abandoned the Constitution, representative government, and the People of California. I fully expect the People to respond in kind.”

A Field Poll conducted in January found that most California voters, including Republicans, support increased gun control measures, including requiring background checks for purchasing ammunition and outlawing possession of large-capacity magazines, among others.

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After-School STEM Enrichment Company Zaniac to Open First Kentucky Franchise

zaniaclogoIn order to ensure the longevity and continuing emergence of 3D printing technology, it’s critical that our brightest young minds have access to high quality educational tools pertaining to it. Across the United States and the world, a number of institutions and enterprises have used STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education as a vehicle for the teaching of 3D printing. From the state of Colorado to the African country of Senegal, STEM education and 3D printing technology have proven to be an endearing and innovative match. Even 3D printing companies like Robo3D and MakerBot have undertaken educational initiatives of their own, helping to solidify the emerging technology as a viable tool for the foreseeable future.

One of the top STEM franchises in the US, Zaniac, has opened campuses across the country, integrating enjoyable and educational content into their unique after-school programs. The institution was founded in 2011 by Paul Zane Pilzer, a renowned economist and New York Times bestselling author. Zaniac currently has campuses in various cities across Utah, Connecticut, Texas, North Carolina, California, Massachusetts, New York, and Florida. Now, the STEM franchise has announced that they will be constructing their first campus in the state of Kentucky, to be opened in September in Louisville.

zaniac_3dThe Zaniac STEM curriculum includes a number of hands-on learning programs for students, including Robotics: LEGO, Game-Based Learning: Minecraft, 3D Printing, App Creation, Computer Programming, and 3D Game Design. By combining familiar toys and games with tech-driven math and science lessons, Zaniac is adequately preparing these students for the future. The program will walk participating students through the entire 3D printing process, from 3D modeling to the final print. The national STEM franchise is known for developing their curriculum to feel more like a recreational activity than a classroom assignment, keeping their students smiling while they cultivate their skills.

“Our country’s current educational climate is not fluid enough to keep up with society’s technological advancements and the associated career advancements,” said Sidharth Oberoi, Zaniac President and Chief Academic Officer. “Parents are seeking supplemental learning opportunities for their children that encourage them to utilize critical thinking skills and develop their own projects in order to visualize and truly understand STEM concepts. Zaniac campuses harness creativity making it a fun, engaging system for educational enrichment.”

gbl_fall_2015The campus will be opened by local entrepreneurs Dhaval and Kinjal Patel, a couple that has kids of their own. The Patels’ new Zaniac franchise will be the first in the state, and will be utilized to provide supplemental STEM-driven learning opportunities for young local students. The campus will service both the Louisville metro area and southern Indiana, and will be located at 1257 S. Hurstbourne Parkway.

“While in school, I found most of my education was redundant memorization. I often received high exam scores, but that method of learning did not engage me,” said Dhaval. “That personal experience is exactly why I’m bringing Zaniac to Louisville. Zaniac takes what kids find interesting and turns it into an appealing learning experience that also prepares them for 21st century careers.”

This isn’t the Patels’ first time running a franchise; the couple runs multiple Subway restaurants in the Louisville area. And, although this may be the first Zaniac campus to open in Kentucky, the Patels are looking to open additional campuses throughout the state in the near future. All in all, Zaniac is well on their way to meeting their goal for 2017, which is to have at least 50 campuses operating across the United States. Thoughts on this franchise? Let’s discuss further in the Zaniac 3D Printing Programs forum over at 3DPB.com.