May 7, 2017 | By David

3D printing technology looks to be heading in a more eco-friendly direction in the near future, with the help of a state-funded initiative based in Germany. Launched in August 2013, BioFabNet is intended to communicate to as wide an audience as possible the potential of biologically produced materials. Their latest scheme was to test a new bio-based 3D printer filament. Over 100 companies made use of the product they designed, and the results of testing were made public so information could be shared across the whole 3D printing world.

BioFabNet is an initiative that was started by BioPro, a company based in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. It specializes in integrating the bio-economy and the healthcare sector, and has an impressive range of biologically sourced products for various applications. BioFabNet was partially funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Hot on the heels of a successful demonstration of 3D printed bioplastics at February’s ‘International Green Week’ fair in Berlin, the latest project by BioFabNet was a test of its newest 3D printing materials. The team was able to communicate with over 100 3D printing companies, customers and individual enthusiasts, in order to test out the latest bio-based 3D printer filaments. These new materials were developed in collaboration with the Institute for Plastics Technology of the University of Stuttgart, and the filaments were initially tested for basic suitability at Fraunhofer Institute for Production Engineering and Automation (IPA), before being sent out to the general public for various tests and experiments.

The participants in the test were encouraged to let their imagination run wild and try out various different applications for the new filaments, which were plastic mixtures based on PLA (polylactic acid) materials. On top of this, there was a major challenge that each tester attempted to carry out, involving the 3D printing of a jigsaw piece. This posed a particularly interesting problem that tested out each machine to its limit, as the shape of the piece was elaborate and included various complex features. Different words were printed on the piece with a variety of different lettering styles, indentations and elevations.

The results of the tests were eventually published on the BioFabNet website, where a graphic cloud allowed each tester to see how well the product printed on their device. "With our project, we have shown that the number of biobased materials can be broadened and with relatively simple means", says project manager Ralf Kindervater. He believes that the future of bio-based materials is a promising one, and wanted ‘'to show the users of 3D printers that they might even be able to develop their own plastics in the future. "

Bio-based materials could offer a whole host of advantages across a broad range of industries. They have the potential to be much cheaper to manufacture than man-made metal or plastic materials and they are more compatible for certain applications, particularly those in the medical sector. Furthermore, the environmental impact of manufacturing could be drastically reduced by using the kind of sustainable materials that BioFabNet is promoting. As 3D printing gains in popularity and its use becomes more widespread, this latter concern will become more pressing, and biologically sourced 3D printer filament could be the way forward.



Posted in 3D Printing Materials



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