A new DIY robot called PetBot is a unique development that will help to recycle ordinary plastic bottles. The process is not yet fully automated, and the device does not claim to be used for commercial purposes, but the benefits of its operation are obvious.
Built by JRT3D, the PetBot automates the plastic recycling process by cutting PET bottles into the tape and then turning them into filament. The robot combines several mechanics, each of which performs its part of the task. It carries out the two separate processes at the same time using the same stepper motor.
In the video given below, you can see PetBot cutting the bottles at the same time as turning them into filament further along in the process. PET bottle is prepared by cutting off the bottom, and the open rim is pushed between a pair of bearings, where a cutter slices the bottle into one long strip. The tape is moved by a driven spool to the second part of the machine, which drives the plastic through an extruder where it is heated slightly above its glass transition temperature so that it can be pulled through the nozzle without breaking. A fan cools the filament just before it goes onto the spool. This allows you to achieve flexibility, and the output is a long thread. It can be used in 3D printers to create new things, thus giving a second life to used bottles.
The machine is not perfect, as it is not capable of a fully automatic cutting machine that allows it to grab the plastic and carry out the rest of the work on its own. So there must always be a person physically holding the plastic, and once the conversion is finished, take a new plastic bottle and place a new one when the previous bottle runs out.
Perhaps a machine like PetBot will not help alleviate those millions of tons of plastic waste that end up in the ocean every year, but this is a pretty impressive project that could help in the much-needed race for new innovations in plastic recycling.
It doesn’t look like PetBot is open source at the moment. Still, if you don’t want to figure out how to build it yourself, you can buy one for $400 from the website of Precious Plastic. This organization enables people to start plastic recycling businesses with homemade inventions. The inventor also says there is a crowdfunding campaign in the works.