The portable Gigalab 3D will turn trash into treasure

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The Gigalab is equipped with the tools to recycle your plastic waste into valuable goods. https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/environmental-problems-gm523382423-51503030

3D printing company re:3D envisioned a portable shipping container that could turn recyclable materials into useful goods – aligned with their pursuit of sustainability and circular solutions when the pandemic hit.

At the time they were 3D printing PPE kits to help mitigate supply chain disruptions. When the company zoomed out on the whole picture, it realized the potential of an off-grid mobile factory equipped with all the paraphernalia needed to produce PPE.

It could be located outside of hospitals or community centers and move around as needs and resources change.

Thereby, Gigalab is born.

“It quickly became clear that with a customizable footprint, a Gigalab could be used for PPE production, as a space to teach manufacturing skills, or as a factory that recycles plastic waste into 3D printed objects,” Charlotte Craffre:ambassador 3D, tells THAT IS TO SAY.

The Gigalab, faithful to the vision of its creators, wears several hats.

It includes the tools and workspace to process particulate waste, a granulator to grind plastic waste, a dryer to remove water particles from plastic pellets and finally, Gigabot X 3D printers to print new and useful objects directly from these granules.

To be precise, the portable facility could turn your trash into treasure.

Why the Gigabot X 3D Printer Stands Out

While most plastic-based 3D printers print with filament – a long continuous strand of plastic – which is stored on a spool before being fed into the printer, an FGF (melt pellet making) printer like Gigabot X uses plastic pellets, pellets or regrind plastic as ” raw material,” according to Craff.

“This lowers raw material costs, increases the variety of plastics you can use, and reduces the heat cycles needed to recycle the plastic, making it more likely to be recycled again,” says -she.

Craff is right about the variety of plastics that can be recycled by the Gigabot X. It handles thermoplastics and thermoplastic-based composites. They can be either virgin or recycled materials, Craff tells us. “Gigalab can grind them into pieces 1-5mm in diameter, the size that fits the Gigabot X 3D printers.”

However, the materials should be free of contaminants and sorted by type, to reduce failures during 3D printing.

“We have tested over 40 different types of these thermoplastics on our Gigabot X 3D printer and are testing more. The initial form factor can be anything from unnecessary 3D prints and support hardware, to plastic bottles and to food containers, to making waste products like plastic caps or test tubes,” she says.

The gigabot
Left: The Gigabot X 3D printer. Right: A vase 3D printed from recycled PET on Gigabot X. Source: re:3D

Truly a circular solution

Currently, the company is working on automating a manual process – “making the Gigabot X 3D printers an integrated system that can pellet the plastic, dry it, and feed it into the 3D printer automatically,” says Craff. .

“We are also working on solutions to improve the flow of irregular plastic pellets as well as to be able to pelletize water bottles that still contain liquid.”

There is more.

The Gigalab is currently being developed as a community plastic waste recycling option. Could it eliminate offsite processing?

“3D printers are relatively slower than injection molding, and if you’re looking to recycle and reuse tons and tons of plastic waste on site, you’d need a lot of Gigalabs to do that, so it’s not possible. might not be the right solution for this.” Craff replies.

“But, for a rural or remote area, or for a manufacturer looking to reuse the plastic waste they produce instead of paying to have it transported, a Gigalab can be a circular solution that transforms that plastic from single-use waste into a valuable object,” she says.

Everything in one place

The company has received several requests from rural communities who want to use a Gigalab to make furniture from waste and from island countries who want to treat waste and create income for their communities.

Meanwhile, Gigabot X is currently used by schools, research labs, industrial design shops and manufacturers.

“We’d like to partner with more communities that want to teach advanced manufacturing skills while reusing their waste, like we’re going to do in Puerto Rico and the US Air Force Academy,” Craff says.

“We are currently building the first Gigalab which will be installed in Engine-4 in Puerto Rico. Four more Gigalabs are being built for the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and will be installed over the next year,” says Craff.

The promise is great and re:3D hopes to partner with more manufacturers who want to find circular plastic solutions for their operations. Communities could be empowered to design the products they need – printing them from their own waste, co-creating a circular economy.

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