Bolivian student creates 3D printer that uses PET bottles to operate

Laura Alba reports for Pagina Siete. Photos by: Freddy Barragan:


Student creates 3D printer that uses PET bottles to operate

The construction of the device lasted a year, and the cost of the printer is between Bs400 and Bs500 [around $71]. Within UMSA, there is talk to provide support to find market for the machine.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 9.58.33 AM“The printer is a prototype. It has no commercial purposes.” It’s the first mentioned at point blank Paulo Loma, who will graduate in electrical engineering, created this particular artifact.

This is the first 3D printer created at the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA). But what makes this device different from those available in the market is that it is made from “reused” material.

A printer of this nature is capable of printing various objects such as houses, cars and even food before being printed, they are designed on a computer.

Today you can buy via internet and a person with the necessary knowledge can assemble it. However, in the case of Paul, he did not gain anything by that route, but created a separate unit from parts “you can find -mentions- at hardware stores or electronic stores.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 9.58.15 AMThis printer is assembled with parts Paulo found at the July 16 fair in El Alto, “in the sector which sells electronic scrap”.

With these components, the engineer started his project, which will serve him to graduate.

The initiative began, Loma recalls, with the design of the printer, not only the physical but also operational. “The design of the physical part is made with the Sketchup program and the electronic part with the Proteus program,” he said, before stating that he continued after the acquisition of materials.

Essential for this printer are the programs required to start working: they are at least five. Of these, Loma created two, the “GUI” which serves to communicate, operate and control the device, and the operating program of the machine, which allows “manual control” from the computer to which it is connected.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 9.57.54 AMThe technique for printing is the same used by other 3D printers, which is called “shaping fused deposition.” “The material generally used by 3D printers is plastic PLA (thermoplastic which is obtained from corn starch or cassava) and ABS (impact resistant plastic), sold by kilo, rolls, but depend exclusively on imports” explains Paulo.

This student found an “alternative and basic” solution for the printing material, you can get anywhere: PET bottles. This is because the material which is often used in commercial printers, has to be imported from other countries.

Initially Paulo said, thought of using whole pieces of plastic, but then designing the extruder -which is part of the rising molten material for impression- used strips of PET bottles.

The extruder is fed manually, and melts the plastic and then gives the form to the designed piece that is sent from the computer. To make the extruder and heating the plastic, Paulo used a shower’s resistor. “As a prototype, it has several limitations, but that does not mean it can be improved” says Paulo, who acknowledges that the impression, for now, is poor. However, he says, that it has “precision”, it prints just like a “commercial 3D printer” as the test prints have the same dimensions as the virtual designs.

This young engineer student has many projects, one of which is to improve the prototype and make it a recycling micro-plant and why not, to do more ambitious projects such as a printer to print objects “big as houses”.

This is positive thinking and making it happen also! So, I welcome him to The Hall of Bolivian Fame!

Published by Bolivian Thoughts

Senior managerial experience on sustainable development projects.

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