Tessa’s Weekly Picks – 3D Printable Bio-based Materials

2020-03-13

Tessa Blokland  

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There are some really nice 3D printable bio-based materials being developed. Some of them are already on the market, some are still in a more experimental – but promising – phase.

What I like about the first example is that it started with a personal fascination. Professor Andre Simpson, a researcher at U of T Scarborough’s Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences, noticed that many molecules in commercial resins were similar to those in cooking oils. He and his team developed a high-resolution 3D printing resin from used cooking oil from fast-food chain McDonald’s. The material, which is also biodegradable, could provide a cheaper and more eco-friendly alternative to traditional 3D printing resins. The butterfly is a first example of the material.

Dutch designers Eric Klarenbeek and Maartje Dros have created 3D printable filament from algae. In their labs in Zaandam, the Netherlands, and Arles, France, the designers cultivate the living algae, which they then dry and process into a material that can be used to 3D print objects (also top image). They are on a mission to eventually replace fossil oil-based plastics entirely. The designers state: “We are currently using our 3D printers to produce the same design in Arles and in Zaandam, one from French algae and the other from Dutch seaweed. Both have exactly the same form, but they are made from local materials. This is the change we believe in; designing products that are distributed via the internet but made locally.”

Also, MIT’s Mediated Matter is often responsible for some innovative developments in 3D printing. This example shows a 3D printing system using a robotically controlled multi-chamber extrusion mechanism to deposit a biodegradable composite material made from chitosan, a natural polymer from ground arthropod shells (like shrimp).

In 2019, architect Arthur Mamou Mani created a whole installation with modular bioplastic bricks, which were 3D printed in a mixture of polylactic acid (PLA) – a fully compostable bioplastic that is made using renewable resources – and wood.

The last example is, Glacier, a 3D printed 100% recyclable and biodegradable sculptural stool/table from Berlin-based NOWlab. Unfortunately, I could not find the name of the used material but from the shape of the design, it must be a material ready for the market in contrast to the earlier bio-based materials.

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Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your own 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.

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