Water bottles are a significant source of waste. According to the Container Recycling Institute, billions of water bottles end up in landfills each year. This is problematic because plastic is highly resistant to biodegradation; bottles accumulate over time, creating an unsustainable condition. We wanted to find a way to turn plastic waste into an asset, recycling it to reduce the need for landfills.

What it does

For our project, we successfully created 3D printer filament out of water bottles. The water bottles were turned into filament by cutting them in a spiral and then drawing them through a modified hot end using a continuous motor. Our project also includes a web interface which allows one to view the filament creation and printing process.

How we built it

The bottle cutter was built using two ball bearings. The filament generation used a hot end, a continuous motor, and a potentiometer to control the motor speed. For the streaming system, an ESP32-CAM was programmed using C++. The web frontend was implemented using HTML, CSS, and vanilla JavaScript, and the backend was implemented in Go.

Challenges we ran into

One significant challenge we ran into was caused by an unpredictable temperature controller. In order to produce the filament, we needed very tight regulation of the temperature of the hot end. Because the controller was not working well, we had difficulty maintaining the correct temperature. This created problems later, where the axle stripped the spool because the temperature of the hot end was too low. Transmitting video frames from the ESP32-CAM to a server to a browser was also difficult, where many interconnected components needed to work together to produce a video stream.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • Successfully sliced water bottle into thin strips using ball bearings
  • Modified hot end to increase temperature and melt PET
  • Created 3D printer filament out of a water bottle
  • Created a real time camera stream for viewing the 3D printer online

What we learned

  • How to use Google Cloud to set up compute resources
  • How to program a temperature controller
  • Recycling plastic is difficult and involves many mechanical challenges

What's next for Code Green

  • Remote printer control
  • Print with water bottle filament (using hotter printer)
  • Filament usage detection and notifications
  • Automate filament generation process

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