This Solar-Powered 3D Printer Could Turn The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Into Furniture While At Sea

Picture: Studio Swine

A Kickstarter project is aiming to combine solar power and 3D printing with the hope of putting a dent in one of the five major garbage gyres swirling around in the Earth’s oceans.

Estimates put a size on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch of anywhere between that of Texas to twice as large as the USA.

It’s mostly comprised of microparticles which hang beneath the surface of the water, from petrochemicals to tiny abrasive beads found in cleaning products, so it isn’t easy to see with satellite imagery or by casual boaters. However, the concentration of plastics can be deadly for marine life.

The swirling currents pull in debris from Japan to the United States and concentrate it in the North Pacific. Researchers from the University of New South Wales recently reported they had created a new mathematical model which could help determine who’s to blame for each garbage patch, a difficult task for a system as complex and massive as the ocean.

Next month, a 24m steel hulled research yacht – the Sea Dragon – will set out from the UK with all the laboratory and long-range journey capabilities to help it conduct an extensive study of the gyre.

If a couple of guys from London based design studio Studio Swine can inspire a few Kickstarters, they plan to tackle it in a unique way, taking their “Sea Chair” project out to where it belongs – the sea.

Alexander Groves and Azusa Murakami have built their own shredding and extrusion machines to create filaments for a 3D printer.

From the beaches in Cornwall, UK, they’ve been collecting plastic rubbish and turning it into the printed Sea Chair. And now, with the help of “keen sailor, mechanical genius, and designer”, Andrew Friend, they’ve created a solar-powered version of the whole operation which they hope to take on board the Sea Dragon.

Picture: Studio Swine

They need nearly $11,000 to book a berth, so that’s where they hope Kickstarter can help. It’s not a glamorous project, but a worthy one.

If they make it (they have 17 days left to reach their goal) the pair will take their solar powered 3D printer to sea, where they’ll use a parabolic mirror to melt down plastic they collect.

Picture: Studio Swine

They plan to make chairs and other objects while on-board the Sea Dragon, along with a documentary about their effort. The project is more of an awareness campaign rather than a profit-making exercise.

The original Sea Chair project has been an award-winner for the team, landing it the gold award at the Design Biennale Slovenia in 2013 second prize at Cannes film festival for a previous documentary about the project.

An open source manual is now available for anyone who wishes to build their own low-cost furnace and begin harvesting creative materials from sea junk. Just email them at [email protected] for information.

You can find the Sea Chair Kickstarter Project here.

Here’s the video for the original project:

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