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WUT student received the James Dyson award

Aleksander Trakul and Mike Ryan

Aleksander Trakul and Mike Ryan, winners of the Polish edition of the James Dyson award, photo – press materials.

In the first edition of the competition for young engineers, one of the winning projects was XTRUDE ZERO completed by Mike Ryan, a WUT student of biomedical engineering and Aleksander Trakul from the University of Edinburgh.

During the pandemic, Mike and Aleksander built a print farm making 3D printing face shields for medical staff. The students noticed that even their relatively small collection of devices produces a lot of plastic waste. They compared their scale with the global production of face shields used all over the world, thrown away anywhere and unsorted. This observation inspired them to create a device which could fix this problem.

So the project XTRADE ZERO was developed. It is a publicly accessible machine that disinfects and recycles used 3-ply surgical face masks by turning them into a reusable polymer pellet. 

How does it work? Masks are first inserted into the machine and placed directly onto a conveyor belt. A series of rolling drums equipped with blades cut the previously welded sides of the mask off. Then, as the mask moves down the conveyor belt, the revolving drums strip off the masks' layers one by one (each layer is a different plastic). The separated layers are then shredded, collected in a cylindrical container and fed into a heating element. As a result of this process, a continuous strand of filament is formed. It is later cut into segments creating pellets. The pellet then falls through a beam of UV light for disinfection and is quarantined.

As the creators emphasise, one of the main advantages of the solution is its modularity. The machine may be used both in its basic version and in the extended version, allowing to recycle a huge number of used face masks. Interestingly, the pellet created in the process may be used to produce any part made of plastic, including parts of XTRUDE ZERO.

Mike Ryan and Aleksander Trakul, as the national winner, will receive a financial award and the opportunity to participate in the international final.

The competition, run by the James Dyson Foundation, has been organized since 2005, and for the first time in Poland. It supports students of engineering fields of study and those connected with design, young constructors who think outside the box and create innovations.