University Dining utensils find new life at Fab Lab

Students learn how to recycle plastic into new objects
Vladimir Kuznetsov, founder of the fab lab Moscow, demonstrates how to recycle plastics into other objects in the UW-Stout Discovery Center Fab Lab.
Pam Powers | March 25, 2020

University of Wisconsin-Stout students snipped compostable plastic knives, forks, spoons and coffee cup lids from University Dining into bits, getting ready to melt them and recycle them into new items at the Discovery Center Fab Lab.

The hands-on workshop was part of a visiting Russian scholars program with Vladimir Kuznetsov, founder of the fab lab Moscow, and Artem Korotkov, a doctoral student and researcher from the National University of Science and Technology MISIS in Moscow. The two visited UW-Stout for two weeks leaving Saturday, March 14.

Kuznetsov talked about how some plastics can be recycled in a fab lab and become new objects.

Kennedy Lor makes a S design out of plastic.

Students took the shredded utensils and leftover plastic filament used in 3D printers and melted the plastics with a heat press. Then a laser printer was used to cut out items such as a state of Wisconsin shape or the Stout logo.

“This is very simple, yet you can create different projects,” Kuznetsov said. In Moscow they use an injection molding machine to create new objects from plastic, Kuznetsov said, twirling a plastic top made from recycled plastic. “Plastic is a very big problem. Waste is one of the major problems. Sustainability is important.”

Stephanie Howell uses a heat press to make a plastic sheet.

Jennifer Astwood, program director for industrial design, said students are interested in sustainability projects and allows them to repurpose plastics.

“We’re giving it another life here,” Astwood said. “It’s allowing the students to create. Our students are into reusing materials and experimenting with materials and seeing what they can make. They are hopeful for the future and want to make the world a better place.”

Kennedy Lor, a sophomore majoring in apparel design and development, created a UW-Stout logo from the waste plastic. He plans to put it on his keychain.

“I love learning more about sustainable materials,” Lor, of Milwaukee, said. “I think it’s important to use the materials. I think it’s a cool idea to reuse plastics. We might as well make something new.”

Kuznetsov showed students notebook covers, lampshades and fun emoji faces made from recycled plastic.

Lucas Fitzpatrick, of Bristol, a junior majoring in industrial design, added plastic shreds to the heat press and flattened them into a colorful plastic sheet. He came to the workshop because he enjoys learning. “I was  impressed by the lampshades they made with recycled plastic,” he noted. “I am going to try to make one. It’s just very important to me that you can take a bunch of garbage and make it into something more beautiful.”

Artem Korotkov, a doctoral student and research from the National University of Science and Technology MISIS in Moscow, uses Fab Lab equipment to make a state of Wisconsin ornament.

Stephanie Howell, of Roberts, said she found the workshop interesting. “I think for me the texture of the plastic is really interesting,” said Howell, a junior industrial design major. “I could see myself implementing this in furniture design.”

Materials for art projects are often very expensive,’ Howell added. Reusing plastic gives students an option for materials that are easily available and free. By being able to use the Fab Lab on campus it allows students to repurpose plastic easily, she added.

UW-Stout’s Discovery Center Fab Lab is located in room 120 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Building. It is a workspace for creative, high-tech innovators and people with a need to design prototype and build things.

Partially funded through a UW System Growth Agenda award, the Discovery Center Fab Lab provides open access to students from all UW-Stout programs, further bolstering the Discovery Center's facilitation of collaborative, multi-disciplinary efforts.

The Fab Lab provides access to a variety of tools, including computer-aided design and desktop manufacturing technologies, to help bring ideas to life.  The open Fab Lab environment removes barriers, such as access to equipment and technology, while serving as an incubator for applied research, innovation, job creation and economic development. 

Due to COVID-19 and Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home Executive Order, UW-Stout on March 25 transitioned to a generally locked campus, and only on-campus essential employees will report to buildings.



UW-Stout student Kennedy Lor creates a UW-Stout logo he plans to make into a keychain out of recycled plastic.

UW-Stout student Stephanie Howell uses a heat press to repurpose bits of plastic into a sheet to make other items in the Fab Lab.

Artem Korotkov, a doctoral student and researcher from the National University of Science and Technology MISIS in Moscow, uses Fab Lab equipment to make a state of Wisconsin ornament.

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