Feb.5, 2015 | By Alec

While there are a large number of FDM 3D printer filaments available on the current market, many of us choose to primarily rely on PLA filament for its biodegradable properties. While it also doesn’t suffer from the warping issues common in its main competitor ABS, the idea that all those failed prints don’t end up in some eternal pile of rubbish is quite comforting.

If you recognise yourself in that, then here’s some good news (though ABS fans might like to hear this as well): two new filaments could become available in the very near future. Both of them, furthermore, are completely biodegradable and natural products: Hemp and Tagua filaments.

The two new filaments have been developed by the Brooklyn-based creative studio MatterLab, who often work with 3D printing and other manufacturing technologies. While very little has been revealed so far, Matterlab’s founders Robert Cicetti and Gabriela Trueba just revealed that they have been very successful in printing with these materials, and have photos to prove it.

As they explained on the company’s website, their two bio-plastic experiments have been succcesful. "Although not yet for commercial sale, our bio-plastic efforts are part of a series of work focused on defying the traditional concepts of the art object and the line between art and technology," they said.

The Various stages of Tagua manufacturing: from a nut to a 3D printed object.

While revealing very little, they have stated that both filaments consist of 20% PLA and the rest is either made from Tagua or Hemp. For those of you who’ve never heard of Tague, it’s a type of palm nut very common in the Amazon in South America. "Tagua has been used in South America long before the advent of plastic, but has now been relegated to artisanal work, figurines and shirt buttons," they explain. "In the last few years however, it has had a strong revival because it serves as a bio/organic replacement for plastic and bears an uncanny resemblance to Ivory."

Hemp as a 3D printable filament

Hemp, meanwhile, is much better known in the west thanks to its most famous subspecies, Cannabis. However, various strains of hemp have been used for the production of foods, oil, wax, resin, rope, cloth, pulp, paper, and fuel for hundreds of years, before being overshadowed by other materials (and being suppressed for its drug reputation).

As both have a history of being used to manufacture products, it should hardly be surprising that 3D printing developers have looked more closely at them too. And by the looks of things, it works. While we’ll have to patiently wait for more information, such as its properties and qualities, both could become low-cost and environmentally sustainable alternatives to other plastic filaments. We’ll keep you updated as soon as we learn more!


Posted in 3D Printing Materials


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Engag3D Printing wrote at 11/8/2015 6:11:58 PM:

We are a 3d printing service company looking eagerly to purchase this commercially. We are also in contact with a local extruding company, so if we could get our hands on the pellets, we could likely extrude this commercial application. Please contact us at engag3dprinting@gmail.com

Adam Garrity wrote at 9/15/2015 10:38:21 PM:

Nice article my Name is Adam Garrity Also in Colorado I am looking forward to talking with you more on this. I have over 5 years commercial experience in the mmj industry here and see great potential for this concept. instagram @The_Adam_Garrity maryjanecoin@gmail.com

Rick Trojan wrote at 6/12/2015 5:46:55 PM:

We are the largest, single, commercial hemp farm in the USA this year. I'm interested in partnering with companies that can utilize our hemp raw material to make filament and cartridges for 3D printing. Please put me in touch with any contact you have for this purpose. Rick Trojan 303-359-8765 Denver, CO, USA ricktrojan@gmail.com

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