From 2012 it has been possible to 3D print wood, or actually PLA-based filaments with integrated sawdust. Nowadays 3D printing wood filament is still PLA-based, but instead of using sawdust, wood fibers are integrated into the PLA (in a 60-80% PLA and 40-20% recycled wood fiber ratio). You can say that is not really wood, right? Well, that has changed! Now it is really possible to 3D print with wood. Forust, a start-up co-founded by 3D printing veterans Andrew Jeffery, Virginia San Fratello, and Ronald Rael, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Desktop Metal, has invented a composite of wood particles (or flour) encased in a bio-epoxy resin, with a strength similar to wood. Both components (that is the wood particles and the bio-epoxy resin) come from wood waste streams: sawdust and lignin (see top image). I think this is a fantastic invention since it contributes to more sustainability and smart manufacturing of wooden products and parts. According to the company’s website, it can be readily worked, fastened, and finished with conventional wood finishing methods. Here are some examples of what the possibilities are of 3D printed wood.
This first 3D printed woodblock is from September 2013, which I consider as one of the first successful examples of 3D printing with wood. The layering, which is typical for 3D printing can easily be seen as the grain structure you would normally see in wood.
What you see here are 3D printed wooden shoe horns showing the possibilities of adding different digital grains during the 3D printing process that flows throughout the entire part which can then be sanded or finished. The software behind the Forust process has the ability to digitally reproduce nearly any wooden grain.
Applications of 3D printed wood can vary from consumer products, like this 3D printed homeware collection (for sale at the website of Forust), designed by industrial designer Yves Béhar, to luxurious high-end components in car interiors (such as this 3D printed gear knob or a 3D printed wooden car dashboard), instruments, aviation, boats, and interior and exterior elements. Instead of the reduction of wood to create wooden elements and therefore create a lot of waste material it will become more cost-effective to replace polymer and plastic elements with sustainably 3D printed wood parts.
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 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.