Muhammad Rafay Ashfaq (Electrical Engineering) and the team working on their Capstone project.
For our capstone project, my colleagues and I worked on improving an existing Plastic Injection Molding Machine from an electrical and mechanical engineering standpoint. Maintaining the machine’s overall vertical layout, an improvement in its usability and performance was required. To improve its user friendliness, The new design includes wall mounting capability with position height control, electric screw jack to provide a force up to 1000N, PID band-heater temperature controllers and a touch interface to operate these systems. Unfortunately due to COVID-19 restrictions, we were unable to implement the screw-jack feature but you will find it in the schematics and it is an important part of the overall design.
This blog post will provide you with instructions on how to set up your very own injection machine electrical architecture based on our redesign and give you an understanding of how the different components come together to operate as one.
The three engineering students Kazi Owais Ahmed (Mechanical Engineering), Muhammad Rafay Ashfaq (Electrical Engineering) and Hamza Haider (Electrical Engineering) worked on their new design for a plastic injection machine.
The goal of the group project was to further develop the mechanical and electrical engineering aspects of the Precious Plastic injection machine V02 which enables users to manually inject melted plastic into a mold to create plastic objects. For this capstone project, the group implemented features like a touch screen with integrated user interface to access and control the movement of an integrated electric screw jack. This system enables the user to operate a piston handsfree. A new heating system was successfully designed and implemented. The blueprints and schematics will be published on this website – stay tuned!
I am writing these lines to share with our wider community the news that I am leaving NYU Abu Dhabi at the end of the academic year 2020 to move with my family back to Germany. This post is to say good-bye to an amazing group of people and to give an overview about the next steps to ensure the Plastic Lab’s post-corona existence.
Whenever I visited the lab during the past months I got quite depressed. No colourful bottle caps stored in containers in front of the lab, no students walking in and out to work on their projects. An ever growing layer of dust on our stations and the equipment at NYUAD’s waste management site. With everyone moving online, I spent my time alone without the squeezing noise and the mumbling sounds of our self-made machines. No laughters from all of you hanging out and working in the lab. I used this time for disinfection, sorting and cleaning of all parts to enable a quick restart when hibernation ends. In preparation to the moment of rebirth, I have worked to ensure a best possible hand-over so that the lab will continue its endeavours to research the multiple and fascinating facets of plastic in the future.
I am very happy to announce that Prof. Marcela Godoy (NYU Shanghai) has agreed to take over my position to lead NYUAD’s Plastic Recycling Research Lab in the future. Marcela is an active member of the Precious Plastic Shanghai Community and has started a similar lab at NYU Shanghai where she works with teams of students on amazing experimental recycling projects. With her experience in teaching courses around the topics of sustainability and plastic recycling, the workshops she gave in our lab in the past and the overview she gained about our lab’s infrastructure during her co-teaching of the Plastic Fantastic !? J-Term course and during the Precious Plastic WANA Conference 2018, she is a perfect fit for the position of the Plastic Lab’s Director and the research team’s Principal Investigator. I am very happy that she is committing to this adventure and wish her all the best for her plan to continue the growth of NYUAD’s Plastic Recycling Research Lab and her work with the wider community in the UAE and the WANA region! As the lock-down policies are still in place it will take some time until Marcela can join full-time NYUAD – latest update is that she is not able to be hired before Fall 2021 because of a general hiring freeze, but she already received the invitation to teach a new edition of the Plastic Fantastic !? course in Summer 2021.
I am incredibly thankful to my colleague Prof. Goffredo Puccetti (NYU Abu Dhabi) to step forward and to take the responsibility of leading the Plastic Lab as the Plastic Lab’s Interim Director until the Engineering Department is able to hire Marcela full-time. Goffredo and I have collaborated on multiple design projects at NYUAD. He shares a common vision on design and is inexhaustibly fighting for a better accessible and more inclusive campus. I leave the lab in his very capable hands!
I am very grateful about the opportunity to have started and established the Plastic Lab into NYUAD’s ecosystem. With Goffredo already in place and Marcela ready to start whenever she is allowed to, and with the support of the labs’ many volunteers, interns, and Student Research Assistants, as well as our NYUAD student representative and SRA Emma Olivia Anderson, I could not be more positive about the lab’s future!
Thanks again, Marcela, Goffredo and Emma, and to all of you!!!
There are so many more people I would like to thank and I would like to say good-bye to and to tell them that I will always connect them in my memories with NYUAD’s Plastic Lab (but I am also so afraid that I forget to mention someone): All students and Student Research Assistants (Aayush, Emma, Mari, Cameron, Shaheer, Hadi, Rumail, Mohammed, Barkin, Febin, Bianka, Mariam, Yusuf, Mayra, Ying, and specially the ones that started to build the machines in 2016: Ona (!), Hani, Raghav), Capstone students (Hamza, Kazi, Rafay), Summer Research Assistants (from AUS: Hashem, Ahmed), all volunteers and interns (from Cranleigh: Rachel and Bella), all visitors, guests, research partners and collaborators that I was allowed to learn from. Everyone from the global Precious Plastic community and the teams in The Netherlands, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Tel Aviv, Saudi Arabia, India, China, The Philippines, Bosnia Herzegovina, Pakistan, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, United States and the UAE, of course!!! All workers from the waste management site that supported us whenever we needed help, all colleagues and NYUAD members who joined conversations and discussion around our topic. Everyone who has always supported us! Carol Brandt and Bryan Waterman for their never ending ideas and support for the Plastic Fantastic !? course. A special thanks goes to our amazing partners from SERCO that enthusiastically supported this project from the very first minute. Louise Larkins, please express to all your colleagues my deepest gratitude and appreciation! Without Julie Thurston (Facilities Strategic Assessment & Planning) and Terence Monahan (Health & Safety), the support of the Engineering Department’s staff, specially Pauline Conaghan and Jacqui Menezes, it would not have been possible to establish a successful running research lab. Nick and Erin Collins who helped me setting up the lab and to get equipped with shelves, and electricity. Last but not least the collaboration with the American University of Sharjah’s Office of Sustainability, Rose Armour’s team, and the AUS Precious Plastic team around Prof. Zlatan Filipovic and Prof. Daniel Chavez that I have worked with on multiple projects, talks, workshops and the realisation of the prototype of the Mobile Plastic Lab.
Please keep on doing what you do, and fight for a better world!
Using the heat compression machine, we are able to make rather elementary shapes, like hexagons. This is probably the most common Precious Plastics first project because of its relative simplicity. However, we have been testing it out with different colors, brands, and plastic types. Outlined below we have our process, findings, and future avenues of inquiry.
(Our heat compression machine)
Place paper sheet below (for preventive measures)
Place solid metal plate (filled fully)
Stack another solid metal hexagon mold plate
Add 115 ml of whichever color, number 2 plastic (HDPE) into the mold
Place paper sheet on top
At 275 ºC for 15 minutes, heat the mold
At the end, take the molds out, place another solid metal plate on top (this prevents the piece from puffing out, as it usually does), and let cool for 10 minutes
Flip the molds (they will most likely not be full at the edges, like the photo below), so fill the edges with about 30 ml of the same color of HDPE
Place back into the heating machine for another 7.5 minutes (remember to place a paper sheet on top of it!)
Take it out and place the metal sheet on top of it to prevent puffing, waiting about another 10 minutes
Paper will most likely stick to it, but you can take it off with water
(Before adding the 30 ml of extra plastic)
(The final result. Notice that the one on the left has a more even color distribution as compared to the other side, pictured on the left)
Surprisingly, different colors react differently. This may be because our blue shredded plastic material was mainly comprised of blue Al Ain bottle caps while the red was a conglomerate of different brands. This, we will have to explore in future tests, when considering brands and purity of the plastic used, since some brands may have different manufacturing processes.
Additionally, the top side (before being flipped) tends to not melt evenly; instead, it maintains its speckled design, perhaps making it more interesting than its other side where it more evenly distributes after the second heating. We need to experiment more with these, especially when considering color fusion in future designs.
Finally the use of paper on top of the plastic while it heats seems to add a wavy texture to the melted plastic, most likely due to its expansion during heating and retraction during cooling. Manipulation of the quality of these plastics could lead to more interesting textures in the design of such simplistic shapes.
Future avenues of inquiry:
While there are many different aspects we still have yet to explore, we need to test the characteristics of the plastic within different colors, even becoming more specific to brands, to see if that makes a difference. Beyond this, we would like to explore how color mixing would change the process. Additionally, we need to see how heating the bottom plate (because the bottom plate is not also heated) would affect the overall distibution of color, rather than maintaining a speckled design.