An eco-friendly 3Dprinted material that is tougher than bone and aluminium.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has discovered a new plant-derived 3D printed material that might pave the way for future sustainable manufacturing processes.
This material features a highly-reinforced brick-and-mortar structure,

similar to that of a mollusc’s inner shell,

and is created from a mix of synthetic plastic and cellulose nanocrystals (CNCs), chains of organic polymers found naturally in plantlife.,

This substance has a brick-and-mortar structure similar to that of a mollusc’s inner shell.

The team has fortified this composite by increasing the CNC content to 90 percent,

making it “tougher than some types of bone and harder than normal aluminium,”

according to the researchers.

The experts have also drastically reduced the material’s petrol content,

which means it might now be used for more eco-friendly 3D printing or casting of parts with hitherto unknown qualities.

CNC’s Potential

The MIT researchers 3D printed a cellulose-based tooth model to demonstrate the material’s dentistry potential.


Every wood cell includes a cellulose matrix, the most prevalent polymer in nature, and each of these fibres contains reinforcing CNCs.

Although such CNCs have polymer chains organized into crystalline patterns that make them stronger than Kevlar on a nanoscale,

cellulose is most typically utilized in the food,

cosmetics, and textile sectors.

Because of their appealing mechanical qualities,

a lot of effort is being put into extracting CNCs via acid hydrolysis to employ them to reinforce synthetic polymers.

Prior researchers, according to the MIT team,

have only been able to incorporate modest amounts of cellulose into other materials because it tends to clump and connect weakly with polymeric compounds.
To address these limitations,

MIT engineers created a unique material by combining CNCs with an epoxy oligomer and photoinitiator in a ratio that causes them to gel.

The goal is to create a nano-composite

that can be fed through a 3D printing nozzle or poured into a mold to be cast without causing poor plastic cohesion.

Wood-based biomaterials: an eco-friendly option

After Desktop Metal introduced its Forust brand last year, wood-based 3D printing became more commercialized.



Although wood isn’t extensively used in 3D printing, a lot of effort is now being put into understanding its potential as a substitute for petroleum-based polymers.

A different MIT team, for example, developed lab-grown wood cells

that they hoped might be 3D printed into household furniture last year.

Similarly, University of Freiburg researchers have developed a novel 3D printable wood-based biomaterial made out of lignin and cellulose balls.

The team’s plant-laced crystalline polymers have proven capable of creating supramolecular networks in parts,

albeit at the expense of the solidity required for scalable use.

In other news

, Desktop Metal has established Forust

, a wood-based binder jetting business focused on turning waste byproducts into end-use components on a more commercial level.

The company now allows architects, designers, and manufacturers to 3D print custom eco-friendly structures using Desktop Metal technologies by combining sawdust and lignin into a bio-epoxy resin composite.

The research paper can be found here

3DprintingMITPLA
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