Students from Rochester Institute of Tech are merging solar power with 3D printing to aid Santiago de Cali, an impoverished community in Columbia. The hope is that they will be able to circumvent their unreliable power grid.
Rochester Institute of Tech
3D printing offers the ability to fabricate a lot of useful items. When you have very little or nothing to begin with common everyday items like fishing lures, survival kits, medical devices, zip ties can make all the difference.
These students from Rochester are enrolled in a senior multi-disiplinary design course and their expertise ranges from electrical, to industrial, mechanical and engineering.
“The system the students developed here at RIT is a system that would automatically sense when solar power is available [or] grid power is available and depending on which of those two sources are available would charge a battery,” said Marcos Esterman, associate professor in RIT’s Kate Gleason College of Engineering.
The multidisciplinary team has started collaborating online with colombian students from universidad autonoma de occidente de cali who are trying to figure out how to grind up and melt second hand plastic bottles in to 3d printing filament.
Universidad Autonoma de Occidente de Cali
Once they cut and grind up the plastic it can be heated inside the 3d printer and excreted on to the platform in a particular formation. Given some time it will dry in to the desired object.
The use of recycled bottles to leverage construction is not new. An organization called “green home” stacks them together with mud to create inexpensive homes. Coming up with clever ways to utilize disposable items can help to prevent pollution whereas the application of solar power to do so reduces the energy footprint required to transport and recycle them in large factories.
“Having those backup power sources like the solar panels or the battery, or also being able to plug into the grid, are all things that will keep this printer up and running in the community,” said Josh Cohen, a fifth-year student who worked on the project.