Form and function
The ProtoCycler is a desktop machine that can turn almost any postconsumer plastic, including water bottles and coffee cup lids, into raw material for a 3D printer. It can also recycle 3D-printed objects.
Alex Kay and Dennon Oosterman
Ages 23 and 25
Co-founders of six-person startup ReDeTec in Toronto
The machine grinds and melts plastics, then extrudes the goo into a malleable filament at a rate of about 10 feet a minute. Users can add dyes to recolor the molten plastic.
Frustrated by how much plastic they wasted making prototypes for robotics classes, Kay and Oosterman began working on a recycler in 2012 as seniors at the University of British Columbia.
Along with waste, the ProtoCycler can use plastic pellets ReDeTec sells for about $5 a pound. Premade 3D-printer filament costs about $30 a pound.
ReDeTec has raised about $500,000 from angel investors and crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding backers paid $700 for preorders; ReDeTec says the mass-production price will be from $800 to $1,000.
Once the goo has hardened into filament, it’s ready for use in a printer. The ProtoCycler can repurpose most plastics 3 to 30 times, depending on quality.
ReDeTec says it will finish its 600 preorders—for early supporters, mostly architects, hobbyists, and schools—by the end of March. While there are municipal- or industrial-scale recyclers for plastics, the ProtoCycler could fill a consumer niche, says Dawn Danby, a program manager at engineering software maker Autodesk who focuses on sustainable design. “Now let them figure out how to make it take plastic bags,” she says. Oosterman says he’s working on that.