PLA (polyactic acid) is often toted as one of the most environmentally friendly and safe filaments for consumer printing, since it is derived from corn products — not fossil fuels. But there’s a new contender on the market, and that is a type of straw-based plastic filament — which also promises to cost around half as much!
Designed by a Chinese company called Jinghe, the material is made by grinding up various dried crops like wheat, rice, and cotton, which in China is typically burned to get dispose of. The sawdust is then mixed with additives like polypropylene, silane coupling agent, and ethylene bis(stearamide). It is then extruded into a pellets of uniform size to allow for easier processing. From there it can be used for injection molding (melting temperature between 160-180°C), or further extruded into filament form. The filament and resulting prints are a woody color with an interesting fiber-like surface finish, with decent part strength.
The company has signed a $320,000 USD contract with the Shantou city government to produce this type of plastic for toys in the European market — If production ramps up, it could well become one of the cheapest filaments available!
We like to cover all these alternative filaments as they come out, and there is becoming quite a selection! If you hear of any new materials used for printing, don’t forget to send them in to the tips line!