3D PRINTING: Branches Out With New Wood-Based Filament

3D PRINTING: Branches Out With New Wood-Based Filament

The 3D-printed wood takes on the appearance of molded paper when printed at a uniform temperature.

Printed plastics? So 2011. And high-end printers have been working with metals and ceramics for some time. But now the 3-D printing community is toying with a material more natural in origin: printed wood.

The new concept has a mysterious start. A Thingiverse member going by the nom de printer ”Kaipa” recently uploaded pictures of 3D-printed parts that weren’t made of extruded plastic, but a wood/plastic mixture he created on his own. The maker wouldn’t share the process for making the material, or even what the ingredients were, but he did offer to send sample spools of his experimental filament to interested hackers.

Forward-thinking French fabricator Jeremie Francois took Kaipa up on the offer and put the filament, called Laywood-D3 through its paces. He found that the material had interesting properties. On his blog he reported that “It actually looks like something between cardboard and a springy MDF. The printed object also really can be painted, much more than with PLA or ABS.”

And then Francois took it a step further. He noted that as the temperature of the extrusion nozzle changed, the color of the wood changed with it. Lower temperatures meant lighter, piney colors; higher temperatures led to darker hues. And the variable temperatures introduced an uneven “grain,” further enhancing the natural appearance.
Keen to keep the crowdsourced innovation going, Francois developed software to allow makers to experiment with the material and its variable temperature performance more easily.

The only problem with this material is that Kaipa can’t seem to make enough.

The one website that carries it is perpetually out of stock, while the only other option is to buy small batches through Germany’s eBay. With no open source sharing, it’s impossible for others in the fledgling community to continue helping its development. Some have expressed interest in trying to re-create the product’s formulation, including Brentwood, California, high school student Logan Dorsey, who has started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise research funds, but that comes with no guarantees.

3-D printing wood might not rival traditional production methods in terms of cost or quality, but it stands alone for its unique aesthetic. And in a world where 3-D printers are printing coral and fixing eagle beaks, it might be just the tool a sustainability-minded engineer needs.

Source: Wired