Breakthrough for large scale printing of wood at ten times lower cost than other 3D printing

Cellulose is the most abundant and broadly distributed organic compound and industrial by-product on Earth.

The bottom-up use of cellulose to fabricate 3D objects has had big problems that prevented printing wood for practical applications. Use in combination with plastics has lacked scalability and has had high production cost.

Researchers in Singapore have demonstrated the general use of cellulose to manufacture large 3D objects. They are using fungal-like adhesive material(s) (FLAM). 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 polylactic acid.

SUDT (Singapore University of Technology and Design) has succeeded in using the cellulose material to make a chair and a series of cellulose spheres. The team made a 1.2 meter-long turbine blade entirely out of its new material.

FLAM are strong, lightweight and inexpensive, and can be molded or processed using woodworking techniques. They believe this first large-scale additive manufacture with ubiquitous biological polymers will be the catalyst for the transition to environmentally benign and circular manufacturing models.

No technology has ever been reported to possess the unique characteristics of FLAM: made of the two most abundant and broadly distributed components on earth, lightweight, cost in the range of commodity plastics, suitable for large-scale manufacture, lack of harmful solvents/pollutants, compatible with cellulosic composites, completely biodegradable out of composting systems. There is no other biotic material with the adaptability to be casted, molded, sanded, sawn and 3D printed. It is expected that FLAM can delocalize general manufacture and meet the emerging needs of sustainable manufacture, large-scale fabrication, and circular economy, as well as be a disruptive technology across multiple industries, including the architectural, aerospace, and biomedical, enabling the development of many more areas and new manufacture strategies beyond the current reach of technology.

Nature Scientific Reports – Large-scale additive manufacturing with bioinspired cellulosic materials