Shampoo bottles become 3D printed prostheses!

Posted on 07 January 2020.

To protect marine fauna and flora from ocean plastic, a former Australian hairdresser recycles shampoo bottles to make 3D printed arm prostheses.

3D printing is booming, but little investment goes into turning plastic waste into printing filaments.

Every year Australians use an average of 130 kg of plastic per person, according to the WWF. And only 12% is recycled. More alarmingly, up to 130,000 metric tons of plastic waste ends up polluting rivers and oceans and damaging marine life.

Brooke Donnelly, CEO of APCO, an association dedicated to combating the negative environmental impact of packaging in Australia, explained to the daily newspaper The Guardian: "Australia needs to boost its recycling industry and create a circular economy where manufactured goods are consumed, reused and recycled."

A view shared by Bernie Craven. The Australian entrepreneur came up with the idea of recycling shampoo and conditioner bottles to make 3D printed prostheses. It was 2017 and he was still a hairdresser: "As a hairdresser for over 40 years, I knew how much waste salons produce, and there is a point in time when you've got to be responsible for what you are producing."

His company Waste Free Systems collects the different types of waste produced by hairdressing salons for recycling: cardboard, hair, aluminum foil and plastic bottles.


Recycling for 3D printing

"I had a lot of trouble finding effective ways of recycling shampoo and conditioner bottles," he told the Australian daily Herald Sun. Until the day he thought of recycling them to make 3D printed arm prostheses.

"3D printing is booming, but little investment goes into turning plastic waste into printing filaments. I think it’s a missed opportunity," he adds.

Bernie Craven works with 38 hair salons in southeastern Queensland by collecting their shampoo bottles and other plastic waste. Once transported to the small prosthesis manufacturing plant, the waste is sorted, crushed and transformed into 3D printing filament. In total, Waste Free Systems needed 18 hours and 84 meters of plastic to make the first two prototype arms.

Haley Wright, 12, and Connor Wyvill, 11 - each born without a left hand - were selected for testing. They connected with Bernie Craven through e-Nable, a global network of volunteers that use 3D printers to make prosthetics for people on modest incomes.

If the tests with Haley Wright and Connor Wyvill prove conclusive, the former hairdresser hopes to market his affordable prostheses in Australia, then in other countries where they could help even more people.