"We wanted to do something to bring both recycling and
closer to average people," said Kamm Kai-yu, a co-founder of the
Taipei-based company Fabraft.
Festooned with pumps, wires, tubes and display panels, the Mobile
Fab cuts the plastic into strips before grinding it into fine
powder. The operators feed the powder into the 3-D printer on the
front of the bike, using it as the "ink" to create a small medallion
they attach to a colored light.
People who bring plastic items to the roving lab wait a couple of
hours for the trash to be turned into art. The medallion is meant to
attach to the spokes of a bike wheel but can be worn in any way the
It's given free as long as the person provides the plastic.
Almost any design can be printed but the medallion is the team's
standard output. One of the few limitations is that the printer can
only use polypropylene, or No.5 plastic, due to the different
melting points of various plastics.
Kamm and three colleagues at Fabraft, all 20-something graduates of
design or art schools, are adherents of the "Maker" movement that
brings a do-it-yourself spirit back to hardware after so much
start-up attention was focused on software.
Motivational slogans including "Keep Calm and Make Things" and "Make
What You Love, Love What You Make" adorn the walls of their
"We built everything from scratch using designs and instructions
freely available online," said co-founder Matteo Chen. The software
to manipulate the printer is also open-source and free to download,
as are a number of designs.
[to top of second column]
Taking Mobile Fab to the bustling streets of Taipei, Kamm and his
colleagues said they have been bombarded with interest from curious
bystanders — so much so that they plan to build a bigger version
with more printing power.
Other machines could be swapped with the 3-D printer, such as a laser
cutter to perform similar on-the-spot design tasks.
But it is Mobile Fab's concept of combining environmental awareness
with cutting-edge technology that has raised Fabraft's profile in
the ultra-competitive Taiwan tech scene.
The contraption was partly funded by the government in line with
efforts to foster homegrown talent as Taipei gets set to become the
World Design Capital for 2016, an annual designation by the
Montreal-based International Council of Societies of Industrial
Taiwan's obsession with pearl-milk tea, a beverage sold in No.5
plastic cups all over the island, means there is a steady stream of
"ink" for the Mobile Fab as it does its rounds.
(Editing by John O'Callaghan)
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