Solar-powered 3D printer repurposes plastic wastes in Solomon Islands

Deakin University, teaming up with Plan International Australia, has developed what it claims is the world’s first technology capable of printing plumbing and sanitation supplies using waste plastics.

The technology – the solar powered 3D printers, which are designed to repurpose discarded plastics and help improve access to clean water supply – has been successfully trialled in the Solomon Islands.

The research team, following a scavenging trip to the island to collect waste plastics, converted the hard and soft plastics they collected, including discarded keyboards, jerry cans and printer cartridges, into plastic filament that was fed into the printer.

Working with volunteers from local villages to identify leaks in rural water supply systems, the project team measured the pipes, designed a replacement part and 3-D printed the part in hard plastics. The team also used soft plastics to 3-D print seals for leaking taps.

Dr Mazher Mohammed, a Senior Research Fellow in Deakin’s School of Engineering, said the trip had led him to coin the term “extreme 3-D printing”. He also said that they were able to test the equipment :in the middle of the jungle in cyclonic conditions”, thus concluding that if they were able to make the printers work under such conditions, it can work practically anywhere.

He also added that while the team is in the Solomon Islands, they also found other potential applications for reclaimed plastics such us for jewellery making, basket weaving and even cutting grass. “We believe we’ve only scratched the surface of the potential application for this equipment, helping turn trash into treasure,” Mohammed said.

Plan International Australia’s Manager for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Tom Rankin, said the potential applications of the technology—powered by free and abundant sunshine—were ‘limitless’.

Meanwhile, the next step for the group, they said is to get the technology working reliably and to consider other uses for the equipment.


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