You've got a personal filament-based 3D printer, like a MakerBot, BFB or BotMill. You need filament to print with. What do you do? You shop online and find the best color and price and have it shipped to you. The price of filament varies considerably depending on where you're buying, but generally the price has been gradually declining.
However, did you know that the price of ABS or PLA filament, typically ranging from USD$10-40 per pound, is quite a bit more than the "normal" form of plastic, which is in pellet form? When buying in quantity, plastic pellets are as little as USD$2 per pound. While you might not be buying in quantities able to command that low a price, if one were able to convert pellets into filament there would be savings available.
The problem is making pellets into filament. There's a new competition on iStart to design an inexpensive machine to do just that. Put on by the Desktop Factory Competition and sponsored by the Kaufmann Foundation, MakerFaire and Inventables, the competition requires a usable design for a filament factory and will award the winner with a huge USD$40,000 reward. (Note - this competition has no relationship with the former Desktop Factory company).
Inventables will be providing small sample bags of ABS and PLA pellets for experimentation.
The device must meet a number of requirements, the most important being that the bill of materials cost must be USD$250 or less. This will be verified by judges who will attempt to construct the device using the instructions with parts sourced through normal channels.
There is no project deadline; the prize simply will be awarded to the first submission that meets the criteria.
We think this competition will spur the development of filament-making machines that could easily be a popular accessory for most 3D printer operators, particularly if the design is open sourced. We foresee makers not only reducing their production costs, but also mixing their own custom colors. Could this be damaging to existing filament suppliers? Perhaps, but most sellers also sell other items such as printer kits or parts.