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'Tots' drive aims to make a difference

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | November 26, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Reiten Cheng and Swaleh Owais wanted to make a difference.

The pair knew two things: plastic waste is a growing problem and the cost of plastic filament puts 3D printing out of reach for many in developing countries.

Cheng, who studied in California at the ArtCenter College of Design, and Owais, who studied at McMaster University in Canada, were inspired to make a difference.

They put their knowledge of engineering, coding and design to work. By the time they were done, Cheng and Owais had created the Polyformer, a machine that would create 3D printer filament from simple plastic bottles.

"Our machine gives discarded plastic a second life by turning them into anything," Owais said in a YouTube video about their invention. "Literally anything."

And given that the average person uses 97 plastic bottles a year — roughly two-thirds of which aren't recycled — the invention will remove a growing problem from the waste stream.

The cost to make the filament from the bottles can be done at a fraction of the cost — especially in developing countries.

"This is a game changer for places where 3D printer filament is extremely expensive," Owais said in the video.

In developing countries like Rwanda, where the pair worked at an e-commerce center, 3D printer filament is extremely expensive, hampering efforts by local entrepreneurs. By the time that filament — purchased in North America at $15 a spool — arrives in Rwanda, the cost has more than tripled to $50 a spool.

The pair said by deploying a Polyformer to the e-commerce center, the Rwandans can create their own filament — making it affordable for everyone with a great idea to use a 3D printer.

The invention is simple to use. You simply take a plastic bottle, modify it slightly to make it smooth and round by inflating it and applying heat. The using a custom bottle cutter mechanism, you cut the bottle into a strip, which is them fit into the machine.

"That's it," Owais said. "The Polyformer will then output 3D printer filament — usable, printable filament. It's that simple."

Also wanting to make the world a better place are the Sandpoint Lions.

Each year, Lions members, local businesses, and the community partner to raise funds as part of the annual Toys for Tots drive.

The club is accepting Toys for Tots applications until December 17. Applications are available on our website and printed copies are available on the door of the Lions Club, 609 S. Ella

The goal for this year’s Toys for Tots campaign is $50,000 — the same as it has been in past years. The Lions make the most of the money by bargain shopping, and with the assistance of generous local businesses.

Today's generous donations total $1,000 as the annual drive kicked off on Thanksgiving Day.

If you know someone, or need help yourself, the Lions are taking applications for the Toys for Tots program. Applications are available at Bonner Community Food Bank and on the door of the Lions Den.

Donations for Toys for Tots can be dropped off at the front desk at the Bonner County Daily Bee, 310 Church St., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. You can also drop off donations at Columbia Bank’s Sandpoint branch, 414 Church St., or at the Ponderay branch, 300 Bonner Mall Way; and at the Ponderay Starbucks.

Donations may be mailed to the Sandpoint Lions Club, Box 414, Sandpoint, ID 83864.

Donations made by check are preferred. Be sure to include a note with your check indicating that it is a Toys for Tots donation. If you wish to make an anonymous donation, please include a note.

If the donation is being made in someone’s name, be sure to also include a note.

Information: Sandpoint Lions Club, 208-263-4118

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