One morning last week I arrived at at Local64 to find a couple of spools of 3D-printer filament on my desk, one bright yellow, the other black with a label that read “carbon fiber”. Stuck on top a note saying “From Filabot. Call Tyler” and a phone number.
Heck yes. Tyler McNaney’s startup makes extruders you can use to produce your own filament from pellets or ground-up plastic trash, grinders for said plastic trash, specialty filaments such as ABS mixed with carbon nanotubes and I’m not sure what else. We’d met at a couple of maker events, and I’d admired his machines, even though I don’t print nearly enough to need one yet. And they’re in my town. Visit and see what they’re working on? Sure.
Vermont street grids being what they are, I got directions: Out past the lumber yard, hang a right at the VFW, past the big brown building that used to be a granite shed and through the big main door of another former granite shed… I knocked, and the guy at the workbench took a moment to shout up a ladder: “Tyler, you’ve got a visitor!”
Tyler shows off Filabot’s new (surplus) milling machines, picked up for barely more than the cost of transport, the production line (there’s the guy who shouted, wiring up the assembled filament extruders, the parts bins, the station where the new guy will soon be welding parts together) the shelves of finished inventory. In another section a couple of filabots produce filament for sale. Tyler is proud of the web interface for the bots, so that he can start or stop production from home; I’m charmed by the the simple control for the take-up reels: every time the loop of newly extruded filament sags enough to trigger an optical sensor, a gearmotor inches the big spool around another inch or two.
We step out into the main granite-shed space, where Tyler has plans. He wants to build a printer big enough to fab a kayak in one piece, then paddle it down the river just outside. Maybe fab a small building. The shed is big enough, and nestled beneath the roof beams is the old gantry hoist, still working, with rails running the length of the shed. “You’ve got X, Y and Z already there, he muses.”