Ever wondered what to do with all those failed 3D printed parts and unwanted prototypes? Did you know that it’s possible to upcycle these plastic parts to make new things? Well, Mayku Creator, Agustín has found an ingenious way to upcycle those parts and use them for vacuum forming using a 3D printer.
In March 2021, Agustín taught an upcycling plastic workshop at Universidad Nebrija, Madrid as part of their Design Club programme led by José Real. Agustín began his plastic upcycling project, Plastic Smoothie, on a mission to find interesting and innovative ways to tackle the plastic waste that so many schools, universities and makerspaces create. The Plastic Smoothie project aims to provide accessible, creative and scalable ideas that we can all learn from.
What is a Plastic Smoothie? How to upcycle plastic from 3D printing projects
The Plastic Smoothie process includes four steps, which you can learn more about on Agustín’s Instructables or website.
- Shred the plastic
- Melt the plastic
- Press it into sheets or into a mold
- Finish the piece in your chosen fashion
The most common application of Plastic Smoothie waste is to either press it into a metal mold or to create sheets that can later be laser cut. However, during Agustín’s experiments with the Mayku FormBox, he realised it could be possible to create an upcycled plastic thermoforming sheet.
The first experiments with a DIY Heat Shield (we now have official ready-to-use ones available to buy!) were beautiful but less than perfect - see below. It wasn’t until Agustín got to experimenting with Plastic Smoothie materials in a 3D printer that the latest version of the sheets came into reality.
How to use a 3D printer to print upcycled plastic thermoforming sheets
The upcycled Plastic Smoothie pellets were pushed through a special pellet extruder on a 3D printer, to enable the printing of thermoplastic sheets suitable for vacuum forming. The "Hilbert Curve" fill pattern in PrusaSlicer was used to create the structure and texture you can see here.
For the workshop with Universidad Nebrija, attendees were invited to experiment with decorating the Plastic Smoothie sheets prior to forming, to create interesting and unusual surface finishes whilst experimenting with how a 2D pattern will transfer to a 3D object.
Making master shapes for the FormBox using laser cutting
3D master shapes were created using laser cut wood, layers of vectored shapes are glued together to create a 3D shape suitable for vacuum forming or mold making. For work with laser cut wood in the Mayku FormBox, we recommend checking out our guide to vacuum forming basics to ensure your idea will work.
The Plastic Smoothie sheets were then loaded into the FormBox and paired with a DIY Heat Shield (you can now buy your own Mayku branded one!) to ensure the heating was consistent. A Heat Shield also makes it possible for the FormBox to work with thicker materials than before.
As you can see from the footage, the combination of laser cut wood and Plastic Smoothie sheets worked a treat! These sheets are perfect for making finished objects, packaging parts or for making reusable custom molds with plastic that would have otherwise ended up in the bin.
Using the Mayku FormBox for education and prototyping
The Mayku FormBox was a great choice for this project - it’s small and lightweight meaning it’s portable and easy to store. The simple user interface and safe design allows creators of all ages and abilities to experiment and create shapes in minutes.
Combining the Mayku FormBox with other desktop manufacturing tools such as a 3D printer or laser cutter opens up so many options for new projects and processes to test. If you need to make more of one of something, you can make a Mayku mold in minutes instead of waiting hours for a 3D print to complete (or fail altogether!).
Agustin’s innovative use of combining Plastic Smoothie techniques opens up a discussion about sustainability within the maker community, whilst offering up a useful workflow that we can all learn from. For more maker inspiration from Agustin, give him a follow via @flowalistik on Instagram and Twitter.
For more information on using the Mayku FormBox in education, visit Mayku Teach and if you have any questions you can request to Speak to a Specialist at any time via our site or by DMing @TeamMayku on social media. For more #MaykuMade inspiration you can join the Mayku Community Facebook Group.