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Tip Tuesday! Check out how ReDeTec Recycles 3D Printer Filament for Reuse with Help from Autodesk Fusion 360 and PLM 360

By     MARCH 3, 2015

This story was originally posted in the Autodesk In the Fold blog, but figure it’s great to share here too.  Real world use of Autodesk PLM 360!

Toronto-based ReDeTec envisions a world where makers can create and develop in a sustainable fashion. Enter ReDeTec’s first product, the ProtoCycler, which allows users to recycle waste plastic from 3D printing into valuable new 3D printer filament.

The ProtoCycler comes complete with a built-in grinder, distributed spooling and intelligent computer control, and can create filament at up to 10 feet a minute at industry-leading tolerances and in any color.

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To help design the ProtoCycler, the ReDeTec team turned to the Autodesk Cleantech Partner Program and software including Autodesk Fusion 360, Autodesk Inventor and Autodesk PLM 360. For its innovative new product, ReDeTec is being recognized as the Autodesk Inventing the Future recipient for February.

Autodesk seeks Inventing the Future candidates each month from its Manufacturing customer base through a brief Q&A interview on a company or individual addressing their business, products and inventive spirit. Here is what Dennon Oosterman, ReDeTec co-founder, had to say about the development of the company’s product leveraging Autodesk software:

Autodesk: What does your company develop, and why is it important for the world?

Oosterman: ReDeTec develops technology that allows you to make, create and develop in a sustainable way. Our first product, ProtoCycler, lets you create your own 3D printer filament from waste material. Instead of always buying new filament and throwing out your supports and obsolete prototypes, you can just recycle them back into usable filament. ProtoCycler is also able to recycle post-consumer waste into filament, and we're working hard to optimize the software so that this is as easy as recycling PLA and ABS (which we've automated, as they are the two most common 3D printing plastics).

We recently 3D printed with recycled coffee cup lids, coffee stains and all — and as far as I know we're the first people in the world to do this. Our print didn't turn out very well, but for a first try it was extremely promising. So we save the user a lot of money and can reclaim waste plastic, which is pretty cool. But it's the creative drive this enables that we love. ProtoCycler gives you the ability to make anything you want, right now, for free, without consequence, in any color, out of tons of different materials. Combined with a 3D printer, ProtoCycler gives you true, unrestricted creative freedom to make whatever you can dream up.

Autodesk: How has adopting technology helped your company evolve?

Oosterman: In this day and age, it's almost unimaginable to start a business without adopting every useful technology you can. We have 3D printers and CNC mills for design and prototyping and a range of software granted to us by the Autodesk Cleantech Partner Program to help in everything from product development to resource management. We even used the Internet, via Indiegogo to launch ProtoCycler. All of this incredible technology has only recently become available — can you imagine rapid prototyping with a 3D printer on a shoestring budget 10 years ago? And it's incredibly useful, if not critically important. This will only become truer as CAD software becomes more accessible through efforts like Autodesk's initiative to provide free software to the educational system. We hope devices like ProtoCycler will allow 3D printing to really flourish, as it's the combination of efficient modeling with real world verification that leads to truly great designs.

Autodesk: What Autodesk software do you use and why? Are you a subscription customer?

Oosterman: We use Fusion 360, PLM 360 and Inventor software. PLM 360 is fantastic for tracking our progress as a team and the development of the product. It's one of those tools that keeps showing use in more and more applications, and we're trying to expand it across the whole company so we have a unified data management system that tracks everything from financials to order fulfillment. Inventor has been at the core of our design work for a while now and is sort of the backbone of the product design, at least from a functional and practical point of view. Once we moved from design to development to product commercialization, we started to use more of Fusion 360. The easy learning curve and collaborative nature allowed our industrial designer to work seamlessly with our hardware lead, which is something we hadn't been able to manage on any other platform. This ultimately led us from a proof of concept to functional prototype in a matter of weeks instead of months. And we definitely subscribe to the software, it's just so much easier.

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Autodesk: How do you see your company five years from now? In 10 years?

Oosterman: We've have a lot of plans in the next few years! We're looking to expand into schools as sustainable 3D printing has fantastic implications for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) education, which is going to become more and more important in the next few years. We want to expand our product line, as well, to other tools that allow creative freedom and sustainable design. This includes scaling up ProtoCycler to more industrial levels to make the whole plastics industry more sustainable, as well as bringing the technology to developing worlds to up-cycle waste into items of value.

In the long run, we want to provide high quality products for makers, educators, students, small businesses and really anyone that needs them, anywhere in the world. These will be products that allow people to create whatever they want, with safety and ease, in a sustainable way. They will be products that inspire people to take the risk and make something awesome, products that show the next generation how easy it is to take your dream and make it real. But first and foremost, we have an obligation to our incredible Indiegogo backers. So our focus for the near term is to get ProtoCycler into the hands of everyone we can, so they can see what it's like to have unlimited creative freedom.

Autodesk: What does being a founder mean to you? [You fill in blank with your occupation.]

Oosterman: When you're just starting a company, it's hard to list a specific occupation. You're doing everything, and so is everyone on your team. I'm extremely lucky to have two amazing co-founders who give their best all of the time and will always do what it takes to make things work. Things can get a bit ridiculous when you're a board member, CEO, marketer, campaign manager, software lead, test monkey, etc.

At the same time, we're lucky to have an incredibly large and talented support team helping us with literally every aspect of the business. So to me being a founder means being a teammate above all else. It's working with all of these other people as best as you can to try and create something much bigger than any of you could individually. Hard work, integrity, passion and belief in yourself and your company all count for sure — but it is truly a team effort. We can do so much more together than we can on our own!

To see ReDeTec’s ProtoCycler in action, visit here.

Do you think you have what it takes to be recognized by Autodesk for Inventing the Future? If so, send in your submission to inventingthefuture@autodesk.com.

— Michelle