Fiber-Reinforced Wood Used as 'Ink' for 3D Printing
May 22, 2013 | 2:15 pm CDT
Click on the image to open
Click on the image to open
Click on the image to open

OAKLAND, CA - Wood-based materials have been finding their way into manufactured goods, with applications for injection moulding, fabtrics, even automotive parts. Now a new development from  has found an application for "3D printing"  using wood-based materials.

3D printing, similar to inkjet printing, uses viscous ink, usually made from plastic. Objects are built in layers of ink, which solidifies as it dries. 3D printing is already being used for product prototyping and one-off novelties. Compact 3D printers sell for under $50,000, and are as small as a water cooler.

"One of the things holding 3D printing back is the material used to print objects," writes James Plafke of technology website ExtremeTech. But Oakland-based Emerging Objects, a spin off of architectural firm Rael San Fratello Architects, has created new 3D printing materials made from fiber-reinforced concrete, salt and wood. 

Wood-based biopolymer used in injection molding>>

Ford invents ‘liquid wood’ compound>>

Other materials being used for 3D printing are made from nylon ... acrylic, and recycled hardwood and softwood - "which can also be fiber-reinforced ... to provide it with extra strength," Plafke says.

The wood "ink" not only feels similar to wood but looks similar as well. "Along with giving a new look to 3D-printed objects, Emerging Objects’ new materials are more environmentally friendly than plastics," Plafke notes.

Emerging Objects envisions its new materials creating building components or structures within buildings that are cheaper and stronger than standard construction materials.  

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.