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The secret to cheap 3D printing? McDonald’s used cooking oil

One of the major obstacles to the widespread proliferation of 3D printing technology is the price. Not only are the 3D printers themselves still rather expensive, but so is the Poly Lactic Acid Filament and other materials used in the process.

However, the advent of truly affordable 3D printing might be upon us thanks to a most unlikely source – used cooking oil from the fast-food giant McDonald’s.

Apparently, all of that old French fries oil is the perfect foil for the commercial plastic resin used in 3D printing.

The discovery was made by a professor at the University of Toronto whose medical research was suffering due to the inability to afford the typical raw materials for a 3D printer purchased in 2017.

“The thought came to us. Could we use cooking oil and turn it into resin for 3D printing?,” Professor Andre Simpson told CNN. “We found that McDonald’s waste cooking oil has excellent potential as a 3D printing resin.”

“We reached out to all of the fast-food restaurants around us. They all said no,” said the director of the school’s Environmental NMR Center. All except McDonald’s.

After the oil was filtered to get rid of all those crusty old bits of hash browns, the oil was synthesised to turn it into a high-quality resin.

Related: Best printers 2020

University of Toronto Scarborough

From there it was used to print 3D butterflies and, eventually, tweaks to the recipe brought a butterfly of a sufficient quality to satisfy the students and their professors. It can now be used to build the custom parts the department needs for its nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer, which is used in medical diagnostics.

Not only are the creations of sufficient quality they are also, unlike the plastics, completely biodegradable, the university says. Simpson also says the oil can be sourced for just 30¢ (about 24p) a litre.

“I was impressed by the research initiative and happy to contribute to something that could possibly be helpful to future generations,” said the McDonald’s franchisee Terri Toms, who answered the students’ call for aid.

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