Rapid prototyping is a fast growing technology greatly utilized by designers, engineers, and universities alike. It is the process of making objects in a short time frame. The objects are designed in a three dimensional computer aided drafting (CAD) program. The digital drawings are transferred to a machine that physically creates or prints the parts. Three dimensional printing is the main method of rapid prototyping. Currently 3D printing has a high operating cost. The Dimension BST 1200 printer owned by the Mechanical Engineering department at the University of Idaho costs ten dollars for every cubic inch of ABS plastic printed. If you were to print a replica plastic baseball it would cost one hundred and thirty dollars.

Our Goal

The goal of this senior design project is to lower the cost of 3D printing by recycling plastics from the home, specifically milk jugs. Milk jugs are made of high density polyethylene (HDPE), a safe plastic with no health risks. Our main task can be divided into two categories, processing milk jugs into a usable printing material and adapting current printing technology to use milk jugs. Though we are completing the first stage of development, our future hope is to make this technology more accessible for K-12 education in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) areas. Our product will allow students to express design and creativity in a physical form. By teaching them importance of recycling and sustainability our solution removes the barriers of high costs that currently keep this technology out of the classroom.

Our Process

This project is broken into three stages. First the shredder, where we preprocess the plastic, shreds the raw milk jugs into a usable material. The second stage extrudes the chips from the shredder into a usable filament. The third stage uses the prototyping machine to create parts. Breaking the process into three stages allows for systematic development. Once all stages are complete they will need to be integrated into one machine.

Sponsored By:

The Boeing Company
The University of Idaho