This website uses cookies primarily for visitor analytics. Certain pages will ask you to fill in contact details to receive additional information. On these pages you have the option of having the site log your details for future visits. Indicating you want the site to remember your details will place a cookie on your device. To view our full cookie policy, please click here. You can also view it at any time by going to our Contact Us page.

Large-scale sustainable 3D printing with ubiquitous natural material

07 June 2018

Researchers have recently demonstrated the use of cellulose to sustainably manufacture and fabricate large 3D objects that are scalable.

1.2m, 5.2kg turbine blade fabricated entirely with cellulose and chitosan, the most ubiquitous biopolymers on earth and produced in large amounts in almost every ecosystem (Credit: SUTD)

Their approach diverges from the common association of cellulose with green plants and is inspired by the wall of the fungus-like oomycetes, which is reproduced introducing small amounts of chitin between cellulose fibres. The resulting fungal-like adhesive material(s) (FLAM) are strong, lightweight and inexpensive, and can be moulded or processed using woodworking techniques.

This material is completely ecologically sustainable as no organic solvents or synthetic plastics were used to manufacture it. It is scalable and can be reproduced anywhere without specialised facilities. FLAM is also fully biodegradable in natural conditions and outside composting facilities. The cost of FLAM is in the range of commodity plastics and 10 times lower than the cost of common filaments for 3D printing, such as PLA (polylactic acid) and ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), making it not only more sustainable but also a more cost-effective substitute. The researchers have furthermore developed an additive manufacturing technique specific for the material.

Co-lead of this research, SUTD Assistant Prof Javier Gomez Fernandez, also known for the development of Shrilk said: "We believe this first large-scale additive manufacturing process with the most ubiquitous biological polymers on earth will be the catalyst for the transition to environmentally benign and circular manufacturing models, where materials are produced, used, and degraded in closed regional systems. This reproduction and manufacturing with the material composition found in the oomycete wall, namely unmodified cellulose, small amounts of chitosan -- the second most abundant organic molecule on earth -- and low concentrated acetic acid, is probably one of the most successful technological achievements in the field of bioinspired materials."

Co-lead SUTD Assistant Prof Stylianos Dritsas, added: "We believe the results reported here represent a turning point for global manufacturing with broader impact on multiple areas ranging from material science, environmental engineering, automation and the economy. So far we have been focusing on fundamental technology development, and little time has been invested in specific target applications. We are now at the stage of seeking industrial collaborators to bring this technology from the laboratory to the world."

With the increase in waste and pollution, the urgency for more sustainable manufacturing processes is growing. The establishment of a technology based on unmodified compostable polymers of great abundance that does not require cropland or forest resources, will foster the transition to environmentally benign manufacturing and a sustainable society.

This research was published in the 5 June edition of the journal Scientific Reports.

Materials provided by Singapore University of Technology and Design.

The original article can be found on ScienceDaily 


Print this page | E-mail this page

Coda Systems