You Can 3D Print That?

glass blowing in progressIf you took a peek at our previous article here, you’d notice that one of the reasons Nebraska company Tethon 3D is a pioneer is that they’ve figured out how to operate 3D printers using a unique material: ceramics.

By creating a tougher and more resilient ceramic, the company can develop art, biological systems, and more. Sometimes, what they create is only made possible due to the nature of ceramics, and other times the ceramic simply adapts something that has already been created into a new art form.

One of the reasons that ceramics aren’t commonly used for 3D printing is that they’re tougher to work with: Ceramics require a kiln and other support that plastic, for example, doesn’t.

We were curious to find out if there were other materials being used for 3D printing like this, which were more unusual but could produce tremendously exciting results. Here’s the list of what we found:

Wood: The Would Wood project, part of a mission on behalf of the Swedish government agency Vinova, is currently researching what sustainable materials and manufacturing processes of the future could entail. Their primary goal is to do this by producing large-scale, advanced 3D printed wood-based structures and objects, envisioning eventual goals of creating actual large wooden structures and construction projects that could make future cities more sustainable and eco-friendly!

It’s a pretty exciting project, because Vinova says that the materials being used for 3D printing right now are not sustainable, require large stockpiles of material to be stored, and are not the best solution. Right now, they’re working with advanced robotics, wood materials, and additive manufacturing to develop wood-based composites that can work for 3D printing. You can read more about the project here, and we’re looking forward to following their progress!

Glass: Glass is one of the trickier materials to 3D print because “when molten, glass requires a lot of skill to form into complex shapes and has a tendency to behave very strangely when extruded,” says 3Ders.org. Regardless, MIT’s Mediated Matter Lab has designed the first 3D printing platform that could print large pieces of optically transparent glass.

The lab says that embracing the qualities of glass rather than ignoring them is the key to 3D printing it, and although it will be most likely unavailable commercially for quite a while, 3D printed glass could be in our future.

Recycled Chip Bags: 3D Print Brooklyn has the same problem with 3D printing plastic as Vinova, so they’ve solved the problem by recycling potato chip bags and using those as the ingredients for their printed objects.

Usual recycling programs can’t recycle the bags due to their blend of polypropylene and polyethylene, so the company uses a New Jersey-based company to turn them into products and make filament. Now, you can eat your potato chips and recycle them too.

Have you tried to 3D print with anything besides plastic? If so, leave a comment in the section below, because we want to know about it!

photo credit: Glass Blowing via photopin (license)