Using McDonald’s Cooking Oil for 3D Printing

If the cost to your wallet is what keeps you from investing in the growing field of 3D printing, the University of Toronto’s Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences recently found a way to make cheaper, environmentally-friendly resin to use in machines.

Their teams figured out they could recycle used McDonald’s cooking oil to make the resin you use in your 3D Printers.

With the discovery of this new way to make resin, these students found a way to recycle waste and save people money while getting the same — if not better — quality supplies. 

Keep reading to learn how McDonald’s cooking oil can save you money on 3D printing costs and learn how to stay up to date on the latest industry news.

The Experiment That Lead to a Break Through

The 3D printing craze has swept across the populace like wildfire — from the hobbyist wanting to print fun things for their family and friends to the engineer needing a custom part for their new project. 

With 3D printing becoming more popular with every day that passes, it isn't a surprise to see more and more schools investing in the printers for their students to learn about and use for various purposes. 

From creating new art pieces to making pieces of a large engineering project for class, the machines are getting a wide variety of uses for all. This led to a science lab buying a printer to create a receptacle to protect their samples for their experiments. 

The University of Toronto's Environmental NMR Center uses high-quality light projecting resin to make the parts to use in their NMR spectrometer, a machine similar to MRI's for medical diagnostics. 

Professor Andre Simpson bought the printer for the lab to help the students study biochemical responses to tiny organisms to environmental changes. 

They needed the printer to make custom parts to use in the NMR spectrometer to house the microorganisms and keep them protected from outside factors so the data would remain uncorrupted. 

However, the resin's cost in their experiments ended up costing the school over $500 per liter. Budget cuts could eventually remove the much-needed supply for his students' research if Simpson did not come up with a way to find the resin cheaper. 

Who would have thought the solution to the problem would be sitting in a cheap lunch from McDonald's?

In his research for a suitable substitute, Professor Simpson discovered the properties of the commercial resin they currently used were very similar to the fats found in cooking oil. 

His colleagues and students decided to take the chance and try to create something they could use as a suitable substitute for their research. 

It took around two years, but the University of Toronto ended up creating a resin comparable to the commercial resin they currently used by filtering out the food particles from the McDonald's cooking oil and synthesizing it to make the new resin. 

They tested the resin by printing a small butterfly, getting details down to 100 micrometers. 

"We did an analysis on the butterfly. It felt rubbery to touch, with a waxy surface that repelled water," said Simpson. He described the butterfly as "structurally stable." It didn't break apart and held up at room temperature. "We thought you could possibly 3D print anything you like with the oil," he said.

How McDonald’s Cooking Oil Saves You Money

Using this process, the cost of the type of resin needed for containers to keep the samples safe in the NMR spectrometer drop drastically. 

It costs almost $500 per liter for the materials to make the resin with the traditional ingredients for liquid Plastic while recycling old cooking oil from McDonald’s would cost around $300 a tonne. 

Not to mention, the cost of disposing of the cooking oil can add up, sometimes in the millions of dollars. Using up the old cooking oil from McDonald’s and other fast-food entities would cost less, but it would also remove the waste they create. 

What Makes It Safe For the Environment

Another upside to this technology is the new materials are biodegradable. When someone starts using a 3D printer, the failed experiments and little projects not up to standard often end up in the trash. 

This creates more trash in our landfills and has a more significant impact on our already suffering environment. 

Professor Simpson’s team buried some of the printed butterflies for two weeks and found the butterfly lost 20% of its weight. Because it’s primarily made up of fat, the microbes in the soil break down the structure: 

“Microbes like fat, they like to eat it, so they do a good job of breaking it down,” explains Andre Simpson.

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