About this project
Reflow is a tech startup and social enterprise that is driven to convert plastic waste into a valuable resource and to use this recycling process to grow some of the world's poorest, ignored and underdeveloped communities.
After years of brainstorming and testing, we have developed a low cost technology that can convert plastic bottle waste into 3D printing filament anywhere. Our flagship operation is in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania where we work with an incredible team of local engineers, scientists and makers.
Reflow gives forward-thinking creators everywhere the opportunity to create with a truly socially responsible 3D print filament without compromise on quality or price.
Let's direct 3D Printing at real world problems and make it truly social !
We've all seen the incredible examples of what 3D Printing can achieve. Every day we hear about exciting new applications, from amazing design to life changing surgical procedures, new housing solutions and even low cost, life changing prosthetics.
When we were working in Africa, we saw the shadow side of the plastic industry. Everywhere huge groups of people are barely able to feed their families through their only source of income - collecting waste. Plastic is being burned causing significant air pollution as plastic clogs drains causing floods and disease.
Meanwhile, as in much of the world, local communities are crippled by broken infrastructure, a lack of local manufacturing and a dependance on timely, costly and inefficient import cycles. This leaves local makers, entrepreneurs and innovators starved for an opportunity to join the global marketplace
Seeing this broke our hearts. We are determined to help break this cycle. That's why we started Reflow.
Reflow filament is made from recycled PET plastic (93%) gathered in Tanzania. PET is a strong and light-weight material suitable for all 3D FDM printers that are capable of printing in a range of 225°C - 235°C (435°F-455°F) although a heated bed is recommended. .
Reflow Filament comes in 750g rolls, in two standard sizes: 1.75/ 2.85mm
Reflow Filament is naturally transparent but reflow blue is next !
Here's how we do it:
Sustainability is only part of the story. Our vision is to improve the lives and opportunities of communities in developing regions worldwide.
1. Short Term Impact
For every roll of filament, $3 directly benefits local waste collectors. Creating an alternative income stream is even more urgent now as the value of gathered plastic waste is plummeting. At least 50 million people worldwide earn less than a $1.50 a day collecting waste in abhorrent working conditions, struggling to avoid the poverty trap. We can increase the value of gathered PET plastic by as much as 20 times, allowing us to stabilise waste collector incomes and pay them the wages they deserve.
2. Longer Term Impact
To build a truly better world, a fundamental shift is needed in how local economies in these countries operate: from import dependance to self-sufficient production. We believe technology paired with localised and decentralised production will play an critical role in this change. That's why we invest 25% of our profits into exciting local manufacturing initiatives, from small scale CNC milling equipment to 3D printers made from e-waste.
To sum it up:
You may have seen us in:
Interested in writing about Reflow? Check out our Media Kit.
1. Our Flagship Tanzanian Filament
Be the first to print with our recycled, community produced, socially responsible 3D Print Filament ! Our first batch will be numbered and will include local artwork so you can track exactly where your product comes from and when it was produced.
2. 3D Printed Art Pieces
Reflow has had the privilege of working with some of the best 3D artists around and have assembled a diverse group of designers, animators, illustrators, sculptors, makers and architects for this campaign.
This Artist team are driven to showcase just how versatile a tool 3D printing can be and to create a magical set of rewards for our community. We understand that contributors to the project may not wish to receive filament as a reward and this is why we have created this gallery of 3D printed art.
We have created three levels of art reward based on the value of the print, the complexity and the size of the design. The higher the contribution, the greater choice you have from each level. Below you can see an example of the amazing work in each category. For the full gallery and more information see: http://reflowfilament.com/gallery.
3. 3D Printed Lighting Creations
We're also very excited to be collaborating with the very talented product designer Hussain Almossawi and entrepreneur Hesham Alsabea to make exclusive prints or their ENLIGHTNING DESIGN series. When you donate you have the opportunity to own one of these unique lighting creations which both test the limits of fdm 3D printing and enhances any environment.
see more of Hussain's body of work : http://www.moxxawi.com/
Our origin story
Reflow was born out of the pioneering work of techfortrade. In 2012 techfortrade launched the 3D4D challenge to build a community that shared the vision of 3D printing as a powerful tool for change in developing markets. From all over the world ideas were shared, from Roy Ombatti making customised shoes for people infected by the chigoe flea infection to soft tissue facial prosthetic solutions.
After the 3D4D Challenge, techfortrade continued to champion the potential of 3D Printing in developing regions; creating open source designs for e-waste 3D Printers and an open source filament extruder; developing the concept of ‘digital blacksmiths' (AB3D and Sticlab), selling these printers and filament in their local markets, and supporting Tanzanian product designers using 3D printing, through the refabdar project in collaboration with the World Bank.
In 2014, through a collaboration with Enviu, Reflow was born. Reflow is the social enterprise that looks to leverage the pioneering work of techfortrade through selling locally created recycled filament on the international market.
How Your Contribution Helps
We've got some big challenges ahead. Here's how we'll (roughly) spend the Kickstarter pledges. The spending is based on a budget of $30,000
More about Reflow
We're a globally born team, with our HQ in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
As we have some unique challenges in developing region we have developed a custom-extruder. As we believe in open sharing, we have made the designs available on an open source license at Wevolver. If you want to get involved, please let us know!
The true magic of 3D printing as a tool can only be unleashed when we direct it at real world problems and put it in the hands of those who need it the most. Reflow is more than just a product or a start-up, it's a perspective that can thrive only with a dedicated community so please get in touch if you are interested and together we can Print The Difference !
Additional "Thank you" to...
Special thanks to 3Dhubs for supporting us in setting up this Campaign, Sticlab and AB3D for the awesome work they are doing in nurturing the growing 3D printing community in Eastern Africa, techfortrade for the technical development, moral support and for having the vision to invest in making 3D printing truly global, Enviu for the early stage support in setting up the social business model, the World Bank for supporting the refabdar project and pilot production and Greenplast and the recycler in their help in sourcing the plastic. And of course our thanks to all the incredible artist willing to take their time to support us through their great design work: Flowalistik, Shane Bevin, Silvia Heisel, Scott Taylor, Noë Ruiz, Ziko, Joshua Harker, Juri Pranjic, Aran Quinn, Andrew Bougie, Franc Falco, Guy Snover, Vincenzo Reale, Daniel Lilygreen, Hussain Almossawi and Hesham Alsabea, Barry Sweeney, Willem Stapel, Tim Straver, David Whyte, Steve Mc Carthy and Jack Stranahan.
Thanks so much for checking us out. We can't wait to have you on board!
Risks and challenges
Plastic Supply: We work with local recycling partners in Tanzania and Kenya to set up a consistent supply of recycled plastic. We've created a small scale system which works on a pilot scale. We're in the process of scaling up the distribution but this means we have to engage a larger group of waste collectors and be able to shred, clean and process in larger volumes. That's why a significant portion of the kickstarter funds will go towards growing the local infrastructure for plastic collection and filament production. The crowdfunding will also help us estimate to what scale we need to develop our production facilities.
Measuring Impact and tracking money flows: Waste collection is a largely informal practice. There are no employment contracts or plastic tracking systems. To make sure we know where the money goes we'll set up a mobile payment system through M-PESA.
Technological challenges: We've developed the technology in pilot projects in Mexico (Oaxaca), Kenya (Nairobi) and Tanzania (Dar es Salaam). We are at the stage where we have printable filament nearing the market standard. However, the filament however is not entirely consistent enough to be ready for the consumer market yet. To get there we've been tackling three main challenges:
- Filament diameter consistencies: the current pilot production produces several meters of filament where the diameter is consistent (within 0.05 mm) but we need to make this process more predictable.
- Moisture: as we're working in humid areas we need to reduce the exposure of the plastic to the open air after the drying process. In the next 3 months we'll be testing a closed system where the plastic is dried, extruded and sealed with minimal exposure.
- Chemical additions and perfect virgin PET mix: We're currently testing with 100% recycled PET. To increase the quality we are working with universities and petrochemical companies to determine the perfect composition of virgin and recycled (first tests indicate around 93% recycled). We're also identifying possible additives that will help us to get the quality we are striving for.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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