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National Runner Up

The Utilize Series

The Utilize Series is a collection of high-end 3D printed products made locally out of hard to recycle plastics and other waste materials.

What it does

The Utilize Series uses additive manufacturing to reuse and give value to a variety of discarded materials. It provides a localised initiative that ensures materials are processed within a circular system, instead of entering our environment or landfills.


Your inspiration

Over the last century, the linear consumption pattern of ‘take, make, use and waste’ has resulted in a severe pollution problem that is causing detrimental effects to our natural environments, biodiversity and health. With China's recent waste importing ban, and a lack of responsible recycling infrastructures, the best option available for many hard to recycle plastics and other materials are landfills. With the introduction of the circular economy, we were inspired to see how we could add value to discarded materials and ensure they are continuously reused after they have reached their end of life.


How it works

To create the 3D printed designs out of waste we first had to establish a circular upcycling system that could be adjusted for different types of plastics and other discarded materials. The system we created uses a collection of machines in conjunction with one another to form an upcycling process that creates innovative outputs. The process typically involves collecting waste and preparing it by sorting and cleaning it by hand, then using an oven to melt it if necessary. The materials are then fed into a shredder and granulated. Next, material combinations are fabricated and poured into an extruding machine to generate a consistent spool of 3D printing filament. After filament is created, 3D printed designs can be produced using FDM 3D printers. This system is adjustable for different waste materials and was developed over a year with multiple attempts so that we could find the best methods for upcycling each material effectively.


Design process

The three final 3D printed designs within the Utilize Series were developed through an extensive filament testing stage. Each waste material was different, therefore, we had to approach them individually because they would all react differently when extruded and spooled. Various CAD models were developed according to each of the materials qualities, properties and behaviours that we recorded during the 3D printing test stage. Giving ourselves the freedom to make test prints according to material characteristics helped us identify specific aesthetic styles and design qualities that were unique to each material. Once these were discovered, each material was matched with a product concept that would suit the unique qualities and make the material valuable. For instance, the chandelier design was developed out of filament made from used polystyrene coffee stirrers as the material had a beautiful, crystal-like quality that was spectacular when light passed through it.


How it is different

The Utilize Series is unique for multiple reasons. Firstly, unlike many recycling initiatives and designs, the Utilize Series transforms and reuses a variety of discarded materials, many of which are classified as non-recyclable. The plastic types we have successfully reused within the three finalised designs include HDPE, LDPE, and PS. Additionally, our designs have proven that other discarded materials including organic materials like flax offcuts can also be reused through our 3D printing process as seen in the final baskets designs. Moreover, our processing of materials and manufacturing of designs was a localised initiative that could be adopted in many places that have significant waste streams. Lastly, by using 3D printing we were able to customise and create high-end designs that add value to discarded materials, while also introducing them into a circular initiative.


Future plans

Since creating the Utilize Series, we have started a small research/design studio that aims to develop our research and bring our designs to the market. Our next steps include gaining funding, researching into what other discarded materials could be upcycled and developing designs for the market. We hope that the Utilize Series could continue to develop so that we can mitigate more waste from entering the environment and educate society on the value of discarded materials.


Awards

2020 ECC Student/Craft Design Awards - L’affare Innovation in Sustainability Award, ECC Lighting Design Award, Highly Commended Sustainability Award, Highly Commended Furniture Design Award and Highly Commended Surface Design Award. 2020 MaDE Conference - People’s Choice Award. 2020 Purmundus Challenge - Finalist.


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