A few years ago, scientists at chalmers university in Sweden created a 3d-printing medium using wood fibers. Now, they have developed a new printing method that USES it to print solid materials of natural wood structure and quality.
The previous material was known as a nanocellulose gel, meaning it contained tiny cellulose fibers extracted from wood pulp. However, although this prints a variety of objects, they lack the porosity, toughness and torsional strength of the actual wood.
But recently, researchers have added a new ingredient: hemicellulose, a natural component of plant cells. This increases the strength of the gel so that it ACTS as a glue to hold cellulose fibers together.
In addition, they digitized the genetic code of natural wood and then used it to guide the use of a 3D printer with improved gel printing. As a result, they were able to precisely control the arrangement of the nanofibers during the printing process and create simple objects that were not only made from wood fibers but also had the "ultrastructure" of real wood.
It is hoped that the technology could eventually be used to make everything from packaging to furniture. In addition, because the technology can use cellulose from forestry industrial waste or even plant cellulose not made from wood, it may reduce the number of trees that need to be cut down.
What's more, 3d printed "wood" can in some cases replace less environmentally friendly materials, such as petroleum-based plastics.
"This is a breakthrough in manufacturing technology," said professor Paul Gatenholm, the project's chief scientist. "it allows us to go beyond the limits of nature and create new sustainable green products. This means that forest-based products can now be printed in less time using 3D printing."
The study was published in 《Applied Materials Today》.