If you’re like me, you cringe every time you start your 3D printer to print out large objects. There’s always the thought in the back of your mind that if for some reason the 3D printer isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do, you may be wasting a ton of money on filaments. With the introduction of inexpensive 3D printers in recent months at a cost of under $ 500, almost anyone can take up the hobby. However, if you can afford to buy a 3D printer, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can afford to use it. Filament, the material used to print, is just plain expensive. Spools of filament cost between $ 20 / kg and over $ 50 / kg.
A man named Michael Howland and his wife Mary Beth have developed a device that will finally make 3D printing affordable for everyone. You are the founders of the OmNomProject, a project that aims to recycle all types of plastic objects into usable 3D printer filaments. OmNom got its name when the 2 year old daughter of Michael and Mary Beth pointed to the machine and said “OmNom”. Since then the name has stuck.
“The machine puts defective parts, bags, or other low-density plastic into the top-loading mill,” Mary Beth Howland, CEO and co-founder of OmNomProject, told 3DPrint.com. “It has several safety switches and an encrypted main switch. The device runs at low speeds and high torque in contrast to our prototype at high speed. Once the material is ground to a satisfactory shave, it is collected in a drawer below the grinding unit which can be emptied into the extruder and extruded 1.75mm or 3mm filament. “
The couple had their prototype on hand at MakerFaire last year, but it’s still a long way from being the finished product they want to bring to the public. Plastic objects that can be fed into the nOm II filament extruder include water bottles, milk jugs, shopping bags, plates, utensils, food packaging and of course objects that have been previously 3D printed. It works with different types of plastics including PLA, ABS, HIPS, PET, and HDPE. If you are familiar with 3D printing, you will know that PLA and ABS are the two most common plastics used in printing. The other materials may not be quite as familiar.
PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is made up of your traditional water bottles, plastic picnic cups, plastic plates, plastic eating utensils, and food packaging. HDPE is the plastic used to make plastic shopping bags and milk containers. Michael Howland believes that HIPS (High Impact Polystyrene) is underutilized, but it is gaining popularity in 3D printing today.
“HIPS is another material that is going mainstream in 3D printing, and honestly, I prefer it to ABS because of its strength and lamination,” Michael Howland told 3DPrint.com. “It seems to me more forgiving to print with ABS than ABS, but you need to have a heated bed to use it. It’s easiest to say that HIPS is Styrofoam’s big brother. Like all other thermoplastics, they have what is known as a “heat store”, which means that they can be heated several times and shaped into something else. This is where our machine comes in because we can use this additional heat storage instead of sending it to the landfill or other locations. “
Howland says it only takes 267 plastic shopping bags to make a spool of 3D printer filament. I don’t know about you, but I collect about 10 of these every time I go to the grocery store. This could have huge benefits, not only for 3D printer owners, but also for the environment. Most of these bags end up in landfills, where they take almost 100 years to decompose.
Michael and Mary Beth plan to bring their beta unit of the n0m II to the upcoming MakerFaire in New York. Then they start a Kickstarter project. While the n0m II has not yet been priced as they are still getting quotes on updated components, Mary Beth told us that her goal is to sell the entire unit for anywhere between $ 1,500 and $ 2,000. This includes the mill, the extruder and the winder. However, the device is modular, giving users the ability to mix and match components. “For example, if they have a third-party extruder, they can add our mill and winder, etc.,” said Mary Beth.
All metal components are manufactured in-house San Leandro, CA facility. While the machine’s powered winder is currently manually controlled via an adjustable speed controller, once it starts they plan to invest in automating the system (i.e. temperature / material presets and an automated winder).
We’ve seen filament extruders before, but we haven’t seen a comprehensive machine that can work with so many different types of plastic. What do you think? Would you be willing to pay between $ 1,500 and $ 2,000 to make filaments from your scrap? Let’s hear your thoughts on the OmNomProject forum thread on 3DPB.com. Check out the following video of the original nOm I prototype that was exhibited at MakerFaire 2013.