Vert - Hero Image
Industrial Design  •  User research  •  Ergonomy  •
Arduino  •  3D modeling
Industrial design  •  User research  •  Ergonomy  •
Arduino  •  3D modeling
Industrial design • User research • Ergonomy •
Arduino • 3D modeling
Due to my particular interest in Digital Fabrication I developed my final Bachelor graduation project around the theme of 3D Printing technology focusing on the purpose of reducing the amount of plastic thrown away in a domestic/small scale 3D Printing production by recycling the discarded plastic into filament, therefore making it printable again.

In order to design the product as a whole, I started learning Arduino Programming so that I would be able to not only better understand, as well as prototype, the intern mechanisms and electronics of the Plastic Extruder, besides defining its Aesthetics, Ergonomics and overall Design.
3D Printing Technologies Fluxogram

Although Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) or Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is known to be a minimal waste process, by analysing the 3D printing production system and getting to know users from the 3D printing community, I discovered that it is highly common for a 3D printer to make failed prints. Errors in the 3D printing process can be caused by a number of reasons that can go from incorrect heat settings on the printer through to the filament snapping during printing or even an incorrect removal of the finished part from the printer platform by the user. Besides that, most parts need to be printed with the use of support material in order to result in a good quality print. This means that the production of plastic waste ends up being an inevitable result of the process. 


The filament that is used in FDM printers is made of plastic and can worsen the impact on the environment when directed to landfill. With the raise in popularity of the desktop 3D printers in the last decade, the discard of this material has also been increasing.
Vert - 3D Printing Process Task Analysis
Task Analysis of the 3D printing process
In order to better understand the 3D printing universe, I turned to the existent 3D printing community – which is very present online in several forums around the additive manufacturing theme and moderating groups inside social network platforms – and carried out an initial online survey with the intention to define the general profile of 3D print users.
The survey was answered by 55 users and helped identify the different environments in which the 3D printing technology is inserted.
Vert - User Research Infographic
With the information gathered from the quantitative survey, it was possible to identify that the majority of FDM printer users are self employed workers and/ or hobbyists who use the 3D printing technology at home. 

Once the project’s target user was established, a question emerged: “how does this user deal with the plastic waste created by the 3D printing practice?”. Following this question, structured user interviews were then performed with 6 different users who have 3D printers at home with the purpose to investigate on this matter and find out what opportunities there were to tackle the issue.
Vert - Target User Slide
By learning about the user’s motivations and frustrations regarding recycling 3D print waste, the project goal was defined: Vert needs to provide a simpler and cheaper way to recycle or reuse the scrap plastic material that is usually thrown away after the 3D printing process in order to avoid its discard and reinsert it in the 3D printing cycle.
Vert - Plastic Recycling Fluxogram
There is an already known process on how to recycle 3D print plastic waste step for step into a new product.

The process consists of 4 steps:
1. Cleaning and drying the waste plastic;
2. Shredding the plastic into small pieces;
3. Extruding the plastic into 3d-printer filament;
4. 3D-printing a new product based on a 3D model.   

The key factor of this method is the use of the plastic extruder machine, that is responsible for turning scrap plastic into printable filament.
Vert - Market Research Slide
Examples of how extruders are used inside a home or a small office/studio scenario
Drill Accessory Extruder Kit Sketch
Click on the images to see the details of each alternative created
Vert - Concept Development Slide
Vert - Final Concept Slide
Vert is a desktop plastic extruder machine which, unlike the others available on the market, is built around a vertical workflow. This was designed observing use patterns of similar machines inside a home or a small office/studio scenario and is known to optimize the ergonomics and to greatly improve the final quality of the produced filament. The vertical arrangement of the extruder also allows the user to place the machine over any horizontal surface or fixate it on vertical panels or walls, this offers different ways of fitting the equipment in a limited workspace area.

Additionally, Vert features a naked aesthetic that lets its user observe and understand the plastic extrusion process happening inside the machine. In order to achieve that, it's design had to be simple, intuitive and user friendly. The end goal was to create a product that looks and feels approachable to users of any level of experience.

The machine works with a feed screw mechanism, which is a tried and tested method of turning pellets of plastic into filament for the FDM 3D printer. It pulls pellets in from a hopper, those are then forced along a tube to be melted and pushed out through a nozzle. Once the plastic is extruded, it is cooled and formed into a solid filament fit to be used on a 3D printer. 
Vert - Packaging Main Parts Slide
Vert - Packaging Slide
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