PACBin - Interactive plastic recycler

Designed and developped in FabLab UNAL Medellin

Technology - machines & tools Social initiatives Recycling & upcycling

Inspired from Precious plastic, this project is a collector of plastic bottles that interacts with the user through sound and light to give him feedback on his action while making him earning money or services. In concrete terms, for this first version, a PAC MAN arcade game is linked to a plastic bottle collector. When the user puts an adequate bottle (good size and material) in the container, he earns a free game session. If the bottle doesn’t fit, he got a negative feedback with the sound and light. A controller monitors the filling of the container to notify the cleaning team and collects the amount and quality of plastic in each container.

Technologies used

CNC milling Computing & softwares VR & video games Electronics Metal working tools Wood working tools
  • What’s the project story?

Juan and I (Daniel) were graduated from Fab academy in the same time. After our final project, we deeply wanted to use our knowledge in digital fabrication to make a project meaningful for the University and its users. By discussing with the students part of the fablab community, we got the idea to tackle the recycle issues faced in the campus. Every day dozens of plastic bottles are thrown everywhere and the responsible of the infrastructure confirmed us his difficulty to sensitize the students and teachers to the plastic collection. In July 2016, we formed a group of 20 students coming from complementary areas (architecture, mechanical engineering, control engineering and physics) and we applied to the University call of grants. 3 months later, we got the funding required to make our idea come true : build an interactive machine to collect plastic bottles based on the light, sound and movement. In 3 months, thanks to the team motivation and skills, we successfully made a viable prototype in 4 stages. First a simple collector with light. Then we made a second version with movement, then a third with sound and eventually a fourth and final version with a mix of all in the form of an arcade game. Through each step we used Design Thinking to improve it with users’ feedback.

It was set up near the main cafeteria during a dedicated event. The users were really enthusiastic about it and we gather interesting feedbacks we used to build the next version. We are actually in the second phase which aims to improve the first version while adding a shredded to transform the plastic. This second piece will be made with a transparent material so that people can understand how the transformation process works.

  • How the workshop was useful ?

First of tall, the key success of the project was the team gathered in the fablab community. It also provided us all the machines and materials required to build it with the exception of metal process. However the collaboration of the lab with the metal workshop of the University made it easy to overcome this lack.

  • What’s the project’s greatest success so far?

Our greatest success was the performance of making a used machine in only 3 months.

  • What’s your greatest failure(s)& lesson(s) so far?

We struggled with the control system because we rushed into the production phase and forget some key elements in the designing phase. It took us more time to redesign many time to container especially to adapt the control system with details we didn’t imagine first : how to prevent people from throwing the wrong type of garbage or how to measure the fulfillment of the container and send notification to the cleaning team. He underestimated the controlling area bet eventually we learnt a lot from this area of expertise.

  • What’s your vision for the project & next steps?

The new version which includes a shredded should be achieved in November 2018. Afterwards, we will move on to the third phase to add extrusion, injection and compression machines in order to create new products in recycled plastic. Our objective is to cover the entire campus with these machines connected together to track the amount of plastic collected and to develop a cryptocurrency so the users can spend their virtual money earned by recycling plastic in the campus.

  • How can anyone interested can contribute to the project?

We are looking for sponsor to fund the next versions of the project but also experts in cryptocurrency such as blockchain, experts in CNC, water jet, arduino or people with experience in this kind of project.

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