Cycling is often seen as a universal pasttime, a sort of social leveller. So perhaps the bike-powered 3D printer is the perfect example of bringing technology to the masses.
Fabraft, a a Taiwanese design factory, has created a bike-powered 3-D printer which breaks down plastic cups to make bike parts, with the aim being recycling plastic and making technology more accessible to ordinary people.
The Mobile Fab’s inventor and Fabraft co-founder Kamm Kai-Yu used open-source software to build a small 3-D printer, powered by the turning of bike pedals. The plastic cups are ground into powder ink, which is then ‘printed’ into a wearable medallion with a light attached, in a process that takes about two hours.
"We wanted to do something to bring both recycling and 3D printing closer to average people," Kamm Kai-yu told Yahoo News.
Anyone can bring along plastic cups, widely used in the country for pearl-milk tea, to the factory and wait for their own trinket for free.
"We built everything from scratch using designs and instructions freely available online," said co-founder Matteo Chen. The engineers now plan to build a bigger version with more printing power, and one where the tools can be swapped over to perform other tasks, like laser cutting.
The whole project has been partly funded by the government in the run up to Taiwan’s stint as World Design Capital for 2016.
To see how it works, here’s a video:
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.