Apr. 13 - A team of self-described geeks in Taipei have taken to the streets on a bicycle equipped with a 3D printer which they're using to turn plastic waste into useful products. They call their printer the ''Mobile Fab'' and say it not only helps promote recycling, but also demonstrates how technology can be applied in a socially responsible way. Tara Cleary reports.
It's certainly not the fastest bicycle on the streets of Taipei, but it is attracting a lot of attention. With its onboard computer and 3D printer, Mobile Fab is turning discarded plastic into artworks. Inventor and co-founder of the Fabraft company, Kamm Kai-Yu, says the intention is to promote recycling and demystify technology for the public at the same time. SOUNDBITE: KAMM KAI-YU, MOBILE FAB INVENTOR, SAYING (Mandarin): "People provide us with plastic cups, which are ubiquitous in Taiwan. With this machine we can recycle plastic cups and through collecting them and then make a product like this. People learn from this process that a 3D printer can make what was once trash become useful, valuable through this process. In the future, they won't feel scared when they face it." Mobile Fab works only with No. 5 plastic, commonly used in beverage cups and bottles. The machine shreds the plastic and then uses it as "ink" for the 3D printer. The result is a small medallion, which, when attached to a light brightens up the spokes of a bicycle wheel. And so far, the contraption has received positive reactions. SOUNDBITE: YU TE-YUAN, TAIPEI RESIDENT, SAYING (Mandarin): "We use so many plastic bottles! It's such a waste. When people have used plastic bottles they just throw them away. It's such a waste of resources. There's no way to recycle them. So they're produced and then people just throw them away, which causes more pollution." Almost any design can be printed but the medallion is the Fabraft team's chosen shape. The combination of environmental awareness and cutting-edge technology has raised the company's profile in the ultra-competitive Taiwan tech scene. And Kamm says he hopes his team will continue to ride their wave of success.