Dec.23, 2013

Usually when we think of materials that can be used in 3D printers, we think of substances like plastic, resin or metal. But now the 3D printing community is toying with wood, a more natural material with a unique aesthetic.

Voxeljet, a company that provides high-speed, large-format 3-D printers is currently developing new material sets, including additional sands, ceramics, cement and wood powder. Voxeljet's printers use powder binding technology, which involves chemical binding agents used to bind together the material being printed. But why are they developing wood powder materials? It certainly suggests a larger market for 3D printed wood products.

Handcrafted solid wooden furniture has been popular because its unique aesthetic. But wooden furniture has always been expensive because of the high costs of quality wood, experienced craftsman as well as the high demand from the market.

Samir Shah, founder and CEO of 4 AXYZ, is looking to enter the furniture business through 3D printing wood. This secretive startup is planing to create custom, affordable wood furniture with 3D printing. "Our Additive Manufacturing equipment and process will deliver furniture within days of order, custom produced, custom designed..." writes the company. But up to now they still haven't disclosed how the technology works.

Nevertheless, the wood-based materials that allows users to create 3D-printed wooden objects is getting looks from sustainability-minded engineers, designers and makers. A year ago, inventor Kai Parthy created the first wood material for desktop 3D printer called LAYWOO-D3. It is made up of 40 percent recycled wood fiber, combined with a polymer binder. It can be melted and extruded like all of the other commercially available 3D filaments on the market.

In addition to its obvious application of creating natural looking objects, things made with the material reportedly won't warp, and can be painted, ground or cut like wood. The development of wood material enables more applications in design and furniture industry and material developers see the opportunities. This year, a few startups have demonstrated their new wood-filament with different characteristics. For example ColorFabb's WoodFill filaments come in 2.85mm and 1.75mm and are began to be available in spools. The WoodFill is made from 20% recycle wood that is combined with polymer binders with the the price of €40 (€48.40 incl. Tax) / Spool (750 grams).

Another wood-based material, the Pop Wood filament from Chinese manufacturer PopBit is a new composite material made up of original poplar powder. The processing temperature of the Pop Wood is 170-230C, and similar to the LAYWOO-D3 and WoodFill, it will take on a different shade of brown, depending on the temperature at which it's printed.

Last year the cost of the filament was still a bit steep, but now you can get your hands on 1 spool (0.95kg) of the 1.75mm or 3mm wooden extrusion material for about RMB 238 ($40 /€29).

This month we have also discovered that Design for Craft, the team behind Stick filament, is creating a new material containing wood pulp for 3D printing. "We were never satisfied with filaments containing wood sawdust: not easy to print and to finish." writes the team. "So we've decided to work, with our Stick Filaments, to obtain a material that can easily be printed and, then, finished with the typical tools of the wood."

Design for Craft showed one of the first prints that they achieved with the new Stick Filament containing wood pulp. "The result is an object of similar appearance to wood but with the resistance of the plastic", writes the team. "The printed object can be sanded, painted and polished as with any wooden material."

More and more exotic uses of 3D printers are being researched, but wood-based materials is very attractive because of its organic and eco-friendly characteristics. And in a world where 3D printers are printing tons of plastics, wood-based materials could be the next big thing in 3D printing.


Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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3D-MAG wrote at 3/25/2014 1:36:11 PM:

Согласен! Для печати архитектурных макетов, в частности деревья, заборы и пр. этому пластику нет замены Сервис 3d печати

3DPrinter wrote at 1/22/2014 7:58:09 PM:

Спасибо за отличный обзор. Славу Богу, что подобный пластик уже можно купить в Украине: Деревянный пластик очень интересный филамент. Но к сожалению, он еще далек до идеала. Спутать настояott деревянное изделие и изделие, которое было напечатано на 3Д принтере просто не возможно. Хотя купить для себе несколько бобин для экспериментов всегда приятно и полезно. =)

Pamela Waterman wrote at 12/27/2013 5:14:50 PM:

Interesting topic to follow, to see how the economics of the process could sort out. Build-time compared to hand-crafting with traditional wood? Maybe it can compete in the niche for high-end custom pieces.

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