From the woods: Environmentally-friendly 3D printing ink

Cellulose, along with lignin and hemicellulose, is one of the main constituents of wood. Now it can be used as an environmentally-friendly 3D printing ink usable in many fields including biomedicine.

Environmentally-friendly 3D printing ink from the woods. Source: Smileus-Fotolia -

Empa researchers Gilberto Siqueira and Tanja Zimmermann from the Laboratory for Applied Wood Materials have succeeded, together with colleagues from Harvard University and ETH Zürich, in developing a new, environmentally friendly 3D printing ink made from cellulose nanocrystals (CNC).

Like a pasta machine

Empa has been using a 3D printing method named “Direct Ink Writing” for the past year. During this process, a viscous substance is squeezed out of the printing nozzles and deposited onto a surface, pretty much like a pasta machine. For this process, they were looking into green substances. “The biggest challenge was in attaining a viscous elastic consistency that could also be squeezed through the 3D printer nozzles”, says Siqueira.

Environmentally-friendliness and other potential

Empa is convinced that the CNC material is suitable for a wide variety of different applications due to its great mechanical properties, as well as the possibility of chemical modification and alignment during printing. Possible applications among others are prostheses, implants as well as the automobile industry and packaging.

Moreover, another advantage is the environmentally-friendliness and easy access. “Cellulose is the most frequently occurring natural polymer on earth”, says Siqueira. It is not just found in trees, but also in other plants and even bacteria.

Read the complete article along with a video.

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