This article is part of Precious Plastic, a One Army project tackling the plastic waste problem. You can learn morehere
The Precious Plastic Extrusion machine is an open source machine to transform plastic waste into beautiful recycled beams, bricks and more. Anyone can build the Extrusion machine and make a business from recycling plastic. And thousands of people are already using it around the world.
In this article you will learn the Extrusion basics and how the community is replicating it and improving it from around the world.
- Extrusion Basics
- Extrusions around the world
- How to get started
- Useful links
The Precious Plastic Extrusion machine was originally designed and developed at the Design Academy by Dave Hakkens back in 2013. Then, during version 2 it was refined by Kees and released open source to the world in 2016. Fast forward to 2020, and Precious Plastic released the Extrusion Pro, a bigger and stronger machine to fit the growing needs of the community.
It’s ability to work with moulds or free-hand makes the Extrusion machine a very common choice amongst the Precious Plastic community. And since it can now make beams and bricks its popularity has increased many folds with hundreds of people making inspiring things with it.
Let’s look at the basics of the Extrusion machine:
First things first, how does the Extrusion machine work?
The fundamental functioning of the Precious Plastic Extrusion machine is quite simple. Heat the plastic, melt it, transport it with a screw, press it in a mould or work with it freehand, cool it and you’re done. Let’s look at it in a bit more details:
1. Set the machine to the correct temperature. This depends on the plastic you’re going to recycle. Over the years we found the Extrusion machine to work best with PP and HDPE.
2. Load the barrel through the hopper with your recycled plastic of choice. Make sure the hopper is quite full as the plastic will be quickly used up.
3. The screw, powered by a motor, will transport your shredded plastic further into the barrel where the heating elements are.
4. The heating elements plus the pressure created by the screw will melt the plastic. As the plastic melts it can get through the nozzle.
5. At this point you have two options: you can work with a mould or freehand to create your recycled product.
What can you make with the Extrusion machine?
The Extrusion machine can be used in combination with a mould or freehand. Using a mould you can create beams, bricks and more recently we've also seen people experimenting with more precise moulds and products.
The cool thing about the Extrusion machine is that it can run continuously, so if you work out a smooth workflow you could create bigger productions and recycle tons of plastic.
And the size of your creations could also get bigger than with other machines, during Version 4 we made this big construction beam to test the possibilities of the Extrusion.
When we first released the Extrusion machine we were only using it to work freehand, almost like a new craft. We would create products by skilfully laying the thread of melted plastic in a three-dimensional pattern until the product was made.
One of the first ones to pick up on this technique back in 2016 was Zelenew from Ukraine. Over the years they've mastered this technique like no others. And as it often happens the student has become the master and by now we call this the Zelenew technique.
Over the years dozens of people picked up on this technique and started creating fun recycled products around the world from lampshades, to trays, vases, soap dishes and more.
Manduku and traditional techniques
Back in 2017 we visited Kenya to setup a Precious Plastic pilot in collaboration with the UN. Amongst the locals that we trained there was Manduku, a local soapstone craftsman. He was amongst the most interested and active participants. We then invited Manduku to helped us during Version 4 in The Netherlands.
Lately he's been sending us some pics of his creations using the Extrusion machine in combination with local traditional weaving techniques. He makes a wide variety of bowls, baskets and items that open up a whole world of possibilities.
What about moulds for the Extrusion?
With the Extrusion machine you can also use moulds. The mould holds the shape of the final product and will be attached to the nozzle at the end of the barrel. A good mould means a good product. Moulds for the extrusion machine are generally simpler. And it is totally worth it to invest in a proper mould. So far we have only made/seen moulds to make beams and bricks.
To learn about moulds, tips and tricks to make cool products with the Extrusion machine make sure to visit the how-tos to learn from people around the world. Alternatively, if you prefer to simply buy a mould you can use the Precious Plastic Bazar where people buy & sell Precious Plastic moulds.
How much does the Precious Plastic Extrusion machine cost?
Precious Plastic is a global project, so it tends to be hard for us to say how much it will cost to build where you live. What we can tell you is how much it costs in The Netherlands, where we’re based. This should serve as a ballpark estimate and you should do your research locally.
In The Netherlands, the material cost to make the Basic Extrusion machine is around € 1200, while the Pro Extrusion is € 2200 + the motor. Bear in mind that these are material costs, to this you should add labour if you’re not building it yourself.
Make sure to visit the Precious Plastic Bazar for parts and entire Extrusion machines.
Best Extrusion workspaces around the world (updated May 2021)
Precious Plastic designs and develops machines. Once ready we put them online for free for people to replicate them and start recycling all that plastic waste destroying our dear planet earth. That’s how we tackle plastic pollution. Ok, let’s explore the most interesting and promising Extrusion workspaces around the world.
Jivan and his team from Ukraine have been working with Precious Plastic since the very beginning in 2016 focusing exclusively on the Extrusion machine. And with focus comes quality. Their range of products is spectacular with inspiring shapes, colours, patterns and gradients.
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Samsara | 🇮🇳
Prad and Lala from Chennai, India have been making furniture with the Extrusion machine for a few years now. Prad even came to help develop Precious Plastic Version 4. Their modular chair has been exhibited across Europe.
Haute Plastique| 🇳🇱
Joop from Haute Plastique in Rotterdam makes really sleek products with beams and the Extrusion machine. They're attention to detail and exquisite design add value to plastic like few others. You can also learn How to make beams patterns from them. Or check out their video on how they made this super cool chess board.
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Lange Leve Plastic| 🇳🇱
The modular, build-yourself chair from Lange Leve Plastic is spectacular. Its design, colours and patterns are top. They even have an ikea-like booklet teaching people how to built it at home.
Precious Plastic Melbourne | 🇦🇺
We mentioned Piers and Kayla in the Injection article already, but they've also been pushing on the Extrusion side of things. They're now exploring making very fine products with the Extrusion machine as well as making 3d printing filament. Very impressive.
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This project based in Cordoba, Argentina is pushing the limits of what can be done with recycled plastic. They make interior and exterior designs with Precious Plastic recycled beams. It's super inspiring to see real-life applications and can only dream about the amounts of plastic recycled. Walls, roofs, benches and more - all made from recycled and super colourful beams.
Inez De Zwart| 🇳🇱
Inez is a Dutch designer working with the extrusion machine, both freehand or with beams. She makes very clever products for the home. Make sure to check her Bazar for a very nice selection of products.
Palha De Arroz| 🇧🇷
Palha De Arroz is a cooperative of women recycling plastic using the Extrusion machine. Using the Zelenew technique they're making a wide variety of products. Brilliant!
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Atelier Samji | 🇫🇷
The Paris based Precious Plastic workspace has been focusing on the bricks and landed a few nice collabs, like their top-notch interior design of the Adidas flagship Store in Champs-Èlysées. Kat also went to visit them in their Paris workspace.
How can I start an Extrusion workspace?
Use the Precious Plastic Starterkits
First thing if you want to start an Extrusion workspace is to dive deep in the Precious Plastic Extrusion Starterkit where we explain you all the details, pros and cons. Once decided you can follow this how-to guide that will take you from zero to hero in your recycling journey helping you find a space, team, build the Extrusion, create a business model and much, much more.
Collaborate with people around you
Precious Plastic is built on collaboration as a problem as big as plastic pollution can only be tackled by working together. So make sure to dig our map and see who's working on Precious Plastic around you. Reach out to your local Community Point and understand what are the best steps to get started.
Access the Precious Plastic community and tools
Make sure to use all the platforms and resources available on our websites from the Precious Plastic Community Platform where you can engage with thousands of other people working on Precious Plastic, to the Precious Plastic Bazar where you can buy parts & kits and finally get active on One Army Discord where we have a big Precious Plastic section.
Extrusion Useful Links
Check out the Extrusion Starterkit to learn what it is, how it works, what it takes to start, costs, revenue, business plans and more.
Let’s start from the basics. If you want to learn about the Extrusion, how to build it, how to run it and more make sure to visit the Precious Plastic Academy and learn everything about the Extrusion.
On the Precious Plastic Map you can find people recycling plastic around the world. Make sure to use the filters if you only want to see Extrusion workspaces and get some inspiration.
On the Precious Plastic Bazar we have an entire section dedicated to the Extrusion where you can buy and sell parts and machines.
Hopefully, this article can give you the right inspiration and motivation to begin your own Precious Plastic Extrusion workspace and have a go at tackling plastic pollution in your city. Happy melting :)