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The Bioplastic Extruder enables plastics production.
"Plastics extrusion is a high volume manufacturing process in which raw plastic material is melted and formed into a continuous profile. Extrusion produces items such as pipe/tubing, weather stripping, fence, deck railing, window frames, adhesive tape and wire insulation." - (wikipedia)
We aim to develop computer-controlled tools that can make plastic parts of any shape. 'Extrusion' means squeezing out a long shape; extruding a circle gives you a cylinder. Extruded plastic forms include sheets, tubes, and others. Greenhouse glazing made of polycarbonate, or UV-stabilized polyethylene, water pipes for plumbing and irrigation, plastic shapes and sheets are all doable with slight modifications of a basic extruder. The key may be a ram extruder (simple design) with inductive heating, to which various dies are adapted for profiles (extrusion), or molds for shapes (injection molding), or blowers and molds (blow molding).
With these tools, cheap feedstocks can produce very expensive products. For instance, polyethylene resin costs less than 15 cents/lb (at a density of 50 lb/cubic ft (800g/l)). When extruded into panes of Solexx glass, the end product costs $1/square foot ($10.76/m2). This makes the end product about 20 times more valuable than the feedstock. If an extruder is available - combined with the know-how - then localized production of such glazing could probably yield cost predictions of something marginally higher than material costs, under the DIY-flexible enterprise scenario.
The challenge is procuring the know-how for extruder fabrication and material extrusion. The material costs are expected to be around $5k for the machine - structure, hydraulic ram, inductive heating, and die.
Bioplastics are the perfect addition to an integrated farm and forestry operation. An effective open-source method of producing bioplastics will allow communities to be self-sufficient in the raw materials for many modern comforts. Bioplastics promise to replace the many useful products we currently extract from oil. Combined with plastic extrusion and molding machines such as RepRap, bioplastics enable a local manufacturing process that starts with food waste or soil and creates computer and phone casings, car and machine parts, toys and tools, screws and sculptures.
OSE Project Status/Schedule
The bioplastic extruder project is currently in research phase. Subject matter experts are encouraged to contact us. See also the Open source bioplastic 2012 update