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Researchers Use Cellulose as Renewable, Biodegradable 3D Printing Material

Mar 24, 2017 02:10 PM EDT
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Sebastian Pattinson, a postdoctoral student from MIT, has recently created a method to use cellulose as a 3D printing material.

According to his study, published in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies, Pattinson wanted to use the potential of cellulose as the most abundant organic polymer as a 3D Printing material. This is because cellulose itself is inexpensive and biorenewable.

A more interesting thing to take note is that 3D printers themselves use a form of cellulose to print. Pattinson explained that since wood is also made of cellulose, it may be possible for him to try to use cellulose as a material for 3D printing. 

However, cellulose isn't directly the material used in 3D printing. 3D printers use cellulose acetate, which is also made of cellulose and is easily produced. Cellulose acetate can be dissolved in acetone and be manipulated via a nozzle. It even solidifies very quickly.

Not only that, cellulose acetate is already a commodity product. It is less expensive when bought in bulk than the material used for 3D-printing.

This renewed potential is added to the fact that cellulose is already used in a lot of materials -- from food additives, clothing and even building. Being able to customize cellulose into 3D printable components makes it a good option to expand the potential of 3D printing.

However, according to Science News Journal, the notion of using cellulose as a 3D printing material isn't exactly new; attempts have been made in the past but weren't as successful. This is because cellulose can only be "flexible" if it's decomposed. However, exposure to too much heat makes it very weak as well.

Another speedy solution is the usage of flourescent light to quickly remove the potential bacteria that can be exposed to the cellulose. It will even speed up the process of solidifying the material in an environmentally-friendly manner.

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