Jan 15, 2015 | By Alec

Even we are sometimes amazed at the speed at which 3D printing is continuously innovating itself. This is largely the result of the 3D printing community’s dedication to open-source making, but also due to the input of some very creative minds.

Some of those can definitely be found at the Israelian design and research team Studio Under, who have been steadily working on an excellent reputation for their extremely fast and large-format ceramic and paste 3D printing abilities. Since being founded in 2012, its designers (graduates from the Holon Institute of Technology) have released several promising and multi-purpose innovations; just last year, they unveiled a ceramic 3D printer with a massive build volume of 800 x 800 x 850mm and with a print speed of 450mm /hour (Z axis).

But they’re already back with another innovation now, one that could change the desktop 3D printing process as we know it (and even its costs): a custom extruder that 3D prints granulate plastic. Developed with the help and excellent facilities at the Droog Design institute in Amsterdam, this little but influential development can 3D print ‘all types of plastic material directly (without the need to filaments)'.

As its designers told 3ders.org, they developed this add-on from scratch for their Makergear M2 3D printer. It is capable of extruding plastic pellets of whatever plastic (ABS, PLA, Nylon, Polycarbonate, even wax and flex materials), provided they’re sized from 1 mm up to 3mm. These can be heated up to 350 degrees Celsius, and they assured us that they’ve had excellent extrusion results so far.

For now, this absolutely amazing development is still utterly in its research stage, and its inventors haven’t yet looked into commercial opportunities for now. But as reporters, its easy for us to speculate. After all, plastic pellets cost a fraction of the price of filaments, and won’t even need a filament-maker to use. It therefore definitely has the potential to make 3D printing far more affordable (and therefore accessible).

A new biological filament?

Meanwhile, the Israeli designers have also been working on another 3D printing project together with the Amsterdam-based Studio Formafantasma, consisting of Italian designers Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin.

Their interests largely focus on critical approaches to sustainability and the significance of objects, and this is certainly reflected in the fruits of their collaborative work with Studio Under. For they have managed to create a new resin-type 3D printing filament out of Shellac. For those of you who’ve never heard of it, Shellac is a resin-like substance excreted by the Lac bug that is commonly found in the forests of South-East Asia. It is chemically similar to synthetic polymers and thus can be considered a natural form of plastic.

By mixing it with a biological component, Formafantasma have created an interesting substance, that have already proven to be 3D printable using Studio Under’s curious extruder.

The great potential of this material is, firstly, that it comes in a variety of hues – amber, brown, opaque and so on. But secondly and more importantly, ‘it is entirely derived from natural (biological) material, as opposed to some other 3D printed plastics. It is another step in investigating interesting sustainable materials that can be used in creating innovative products using cutting edge technology.’

While can’t report on the commercial plans behind this interesting filament either, its potential is very evident. Alongside the plastic granulate extruder, 2015 is already shaping up to be a very good year for 3D printing enthusiasts.


Posted in 3D Printer Accessories


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