Most people immediately associate the technological magic of 3D printing with replicators from Star Trek (“Earl Grey, hot”), but that’s hardly the only example of this sort of device in sci-fi. My personal favorite comes from the pages of Transmetropolitan, and the twisted mind of Warren Ellis. Ellis’ version had a few problems, but it also had a recycling feature that allowed the machine to break down anything from beer bottles to old boots into new materials to feed itself.
As so often is the case, sci-fi is the prophet of actual science. Although it isn’t quite able to recycle old boots, the Filabot can recycle used plastic to create spools of filament that can be used in 3D printers. Begun as a Kickstarter project by Tyler McNaney, a mechanical engineering student at Vermont Technical College, the Filabot is ready for use, but hasn’t quite hit the mass manufacturing stage.