Forming 5: Making Filament

As Form5 Prosthetics and our eco-friendly movement continues to grow we will be re-designing our way of documenting our progress with our project, “Forming 5”. For more frequent and “in the moment” documentation, we encourage you to follow our social media (@form5prosthetics)!

Forming 5: Phase Two

My secondary onsite advisor, Keith Overton and I began working/collaborating on Forming 5 on Friday, December 15th in the new Form5 Offices/Lab, more specifically we started to chip away at a much larger task than we even imagined. Keith arrived along with delivering the electric chipper he donated to Form5 allowing us to pursue our vision of eco-friendly prosthetic solutions and to be able to execute this amazing project. After getting everything settled into the lab, we began speaking regarding the cups and suddenly and naturally we both just started chipping the cups. Once by smashing the cups, quickly learning we would need to do early refining before chipping the cups into mulch. After briefly working with the cups we also tested and ran the initial extruder purge on our Filabot-Filament Extruder to prepare for our first batch of plastic mulch.

Forming 5: Phase Two – Process

Over winter break I utilized my down time to make extreme headway on “Forming 5”. With this new momentum, I am continuing to steer the direction of Form5 and what we will accomplish in the not so distant future! For several weeks now, I have been meeting with Keith to work more on the second phase of “Forming 5”. Keith is very familiar with working with various types of plastics due to his work within the automotive industry at Commercial Vehicle Group (CVG). In addition, he is very excited to begin working with Form5 Prosthetics and helping us achieve our goal of creating eco-friendly prosthetic solutions. Along with having experience with plastics, he is also involved with a task group, “The Adaptive Adventure Sports Coalition”, in which he thinks Form5 could provide very beneficial adaptive devices for those not only in the coalition but those all around the world.

After experimenting and making plastic mulch for about a month now, Keith and I collectively have a rough idea of our process in which we turn the plastic cups/lids collected into precise pieces of plastic mulch to create our first test batch of recycled 3D printer filament:

Initially, we use scissors to cut the “Earthchoice” cups (140z) into half and begin shredding stacks by 40. Roughly 80 cups equal a spool of 3D printer filament. The second step of the process is to use the electric chipper to shred the cups into plastic mulch. This part of the process is most difficult because it requires many aspects in order to achieve the consistency of the mulch. The shredded pieces get ran through several times to make them smaller as they are sorted through several sieves in order to get precise plastic mulch.

Once completing this step of the process I then continue to sort through the mulch and begin weighing it out in grams to bag by the kilogram. Each kilogram of plastic mulch made from the cups is melted and extruded as 3D printer filament (Diameter: 2.85mm). Our Filament extruder was purchased from the sustainable 3d printing company, Filabot who has become a huge support of our ongoing research with prosthetics and recycled plastics.

Once Keith and I had a good first batch of plastic mulch we tested out our Filabot to seen if the plastic cups could even be extruded. To my surprise, my vision came true when we the Filabot stated extruding the plastic mulch from the “Earthchoice” cups. When running this test Keith and I we for satisfied with our success of extruding the cups. Now this process must be repeated several times and perfected in order to produce a spool of filament. We have also added new aspects into the process of making filament to ensure we get accurate filament diameter and consistency by using fans to cool the filament as it is being extruded and adjusting the speed.

Now having tested all the aspects of our process I have begun reforming it to continue making it efficient as we continue to experiment with recycled plastics and making 3D printer filament. After now successfully chipping and sieving through 2KG (160 cups -14oz.) of plastic I am now beginning to work with the plastic lids along with packaging all the plastic mulch. The 160 cups have been turned into plastic mulch and bagged by kilogram(1KG). Each Kilogram bag of plastic mulch is equivalent to a spool of 3D printer filament.

Within the next few weeks, I will continue making several bags of plastic mulch and begin shifting our focus on extruding two complete and colored filament spools to 3D print Maddie’s Panda Arm. I am very excited to already see several steps ahead and how this project is beginning to reshape and now form around Maddie. There is so much work to be done and I can not wait to see the great measures that will be made this year, most importantly in the next few months! I am thankful for the opportunity I have been given to share my passion for this movement of change and improvement. As I see the road ahead I am nothing, but prepared for the things ahead of me because I know history has its eyes on me.

As always I assure you Form5 is in good hand(s),

Aaron Westbrook, CEO and Founder of Form5 Prosthetics


Below are current photos from our project Forming 5:


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