Hugh Lyman, a 83-year old inventor, has just won himself $40,000 by winning a competition to be the first to build an open source machine that can make plastic resin pellets suitable for use in a low cost 3D printer.
The Desktop Factory Competition was launched in May 2012 by Inventables, The Kauffman Foundation and Maker Faire as a effort to drive down the cost of 3D printing. A spool of plastic filament that feeds into a 3D printer costs around $50, whereas the same amount of plastic pellets costs only $5 – $10.
Being able to make cheap plastic filament will make 3D printing cheaper and more accessible to home enthusiasts. Lyman’s first filament extruder was completed in August 2012 but fell foul of a rule that stipulated that the extruder must cost less than $250 in parts. After a minor redesign he submitted the Lyman Filament Extruder II and was declared the winner.
“It’s my first machine with a few little parts changed,” Lyman said. “I resubmitted it, and it worked. It worked great.”
His filament extruder works by heating a hopper full of plastic pellets until they melt. They are then squeezed through a nozzle into a filament that is coiled into a spool.
In addition to the $40,000 Hugh also won a desktop fabrication lab that consists of a 3D printer, an FS laser cutter and a Shapeoko CNC mill.
As both versions of the extruder’s designs are open source they are available for anyone to download, of which 12,000 people have done so already. Some users have even improved on his design, such as the Bottleworks extruder.