Plastic -- we use it, interact with it, and manufacture it on a daily basis. It comes in many forms -- such as plastic water bottles, food packaging, grocery bags, and even in the keyboard used to write this article. Suffice it to say, it is literally everywhere, including way out in our oceans.
Every year, the world manufactures roughly 300 million tons of plastic, and a percentage of that enters our various waterways, which in turn lead into the oceans. Those who have watched the show Survivor Man can tell you, you would be hard-pressed to find a beach that doesn’t have plastic bits, bottles, and other debris on it. It has even been found on the remote shores of Antarctica!
Because of the plastic entering our waterways, plastic has become the main ingredient of the world’s largest floating garbage dump, which is estimated in size from 270,000 to more than 5,000,000 square miles located in the Northern Pacific Ocean.
Dassault Systemes 3D mock-up of the ocean filter concept from under water.
(Source: The Ocean Cleanup)
Ridding the seas of plastics is no small feat, and is an incredible challenge to engineers. One of those engineers, aerospace engineering student Boyan Slat, has collaborated with Dassault Systemes to come up with a few solutions to clean the oceans of those bits of plastic. Slat turned to Dassault CEO Bernard Charles for help in designing a conceptual filter that strains the oceans using its own current, which passes through a membrane-like filter. Not content with using a few ideas of their own, the pair took to SolidWorks engineers from all over the globe to pitch their ideas and solutions to the problem, effectively crowd-sourcing the problem through a proposed contest.
Known as the "Eco-Engineering Design Contest," participants are required to design two important components of the filtering platform, including the platform itself and the floating booms that have to protrude at incredible distances in order to divert and extract the plastic bits.
Once participants have designed their models, they will then have to create the mounting/dismounting instructions for the 3D model using Dassault Systemes' 3Dvia publishing, authoring, and hosting tools software (limited for a 30-day trial).
Finally, they will have to include a write-up presentation, which includes the process of the design to the instructions on mounting/dismounting of the platform. The winner of the contest will receive admission to SolidWorks World 2014 in San Diego (with four-night hotel stay), a one-week trip to The Netherlands to work with the Ocean Cleanup team, and a Microsoft Surface Pro complete with SolidWorks 2014 Premium.
All that, plus knowing that their efforts will help rid the oceans of the millions of tons worth of plastic, which we can no longer ignore.