You should know right off that this is a long story, but I hope you'll find it interesting. There is enough of it, that I figured by breaking it up I could make a reasonable blog, talking about resources, DIY, dreams, and engineering. So I'll start this off by talking about how my buddy and I started working on the 3DBear recycler.
I'm Paul, and I became a student of engineering, because I was tired of watching poorly made and badly designed things break down, and become trash. It broke my heart to know so little about materials like the plastics that are accumulating in our oceans, and what to do about them. So I went back to school. The Arcada University of Applied Sciences in Helsinki, Finland has a program in material science, an engineering degree, so I spent the summer brushing up on my math, and tested in. I met Janne my first day at the school and we got along right away, talking about mechanics, and 3D printing, and possibilities.
Once I got started there I learned loads of reasons that things are worse than we thought they were, and loads of reasons that we can't do anything about it; but I wanted more, I wanted to know about the things that haven't been done yet, and the basics that could be used to develop new methods. So I applied for funding for a research trip, I wanted to better understand waste accumulation. So I went to Bali and convinced local villagers to participate in an ecological project where waste was collected and I did my best to see how quickly it was accumulating and what was being done about it.
The project was a success. I got good data, and I learned a lot of practical skills in the process. Additionally I got the attention of a startup called 3DBear, they wanted to meet me to discuss an opportunity with them. Kristo Lehtonen, one of the founders, strode into the coffee shop where I had agreed to meet him. He is a striking sort of guy, his smile lights the place up and he seems to have an unlimited optimism, traits that are more common in my homeland of California than here in Finland.
I noticed immediately that nothing was small or commonplace with him. Instead it was overarching vision and seizing this very moment. Usually I find that sort of thing a little cheesy, but when Kristo tells you about it, you can almost see it. So he told me 3DBear was all about changing the world starting with education, and I am all about that, but he went on.
He wanted me to build a machine. An ecological device that would transform waste plastic into 3D printing filament. 3DBear was scouting both Janne and I to make something new and interesting. I was processing his plan just fine until he said something that threw me off. He said once Janne and I finish building the machine, the entire project goes open-source.
Now that guy who was tired of watching poorly made and badly designed things break down, me; well that guy knew for sure that companies don't invest in open-source. I also knew that startups, and 3DBear was a startup that was two or three months old, startups don't make investments in projects like this. But Kristo was adamant, he and his cofounders were set on doing more than just "changing the world", they wanted to do it responsibly.
So I hope you can understand that I had no choice in the matter. I was working with people who honestly wanted to do the right thing, and had assembled a team with the right skills and passion to meet those goals. I was making accessible technology that changes the way we look at waste. And I was working with one of my best friends. I could not be more grateful of the opportunity, and I have zero regret.
It has been a year, and the project is online, so come and check it out.
I'll be blogging here, to talk about next steps, to talk about how the recycler can be used, to relate behind the scenes stories, and hopefully, to inspire you and those you know to redefine words like trash, waste, and possible.
What would you like to know about the project?
Write to me at Paul (at) 3dbear.fi with suggestions, questions, etc.
And don't forget to check out the recycler page and our open source files!