3D Printing Paper — Sort Of

There are only a few truly ancient engineered materials, and among the oldest is paper. Traditionally, paper is flat and can be bent into shapes. However, paper can be molded into for example packing material or egg cartons. [XYZAidan]  has a process that can recycle paper into 3D cardboard-like objects. You need a 3D printer, but it doesn’t actually print the paper. Instead, you use the printer to create a mold that can form paper pulp you make out of recycled paper and a blender.

[Aidan] provides seven different molds ranging from a desk tray and a dish to simple cubes and coasters. The molds are made in three parts to assist in removing the finished product.

The 3D printed molds have to be very strong because you’ll use a vise to squeeze the water out of the pulp. You can use almost any kind of paper unless it is glossy or has a plastic coating. You can tear up pieces by hand or use a shredder. A blender will create the pulp but you’ll also have to add water and a binder. [Aidan] shows that you can use PVA glue, rice paste, or cornstarch. You can make rice paste easily from ordinary rice by cooking it until it becomes paste-like.

There are some downsides. You have to let the paper dry for hours or even a day or two. In addition, the pulp shrinks as it dries, so getting exact dimensions could be a problem. The material is very wood-like but it doesn’t do well when wet.

Most of the papercraft we see here is more akin to origami. We’ve seen cloth used in papercrafts and we wondered if adding cloth fibers to the pulp might work out in some strange way.

31 thoughts on “3D Printing Paper — Sort Of

      1. No… the fries. I don’t *want* to know what goes into the burgers themselves… although if I had to guess I’d say the remains of North Koreans who had (at the least) a slight momentary doubt of exactly how deistic the Kim family really is.

        OK, that was wrong, but I don’t care… offensiveness is a valid and important part of humor. If you don’t agree, go watch George Carlin on YouTube until you change your mind.

    1. Well, that’s why I said we’ve seen cloth used in paper before — I’m aware of cotton paper (even though most of it doesn’t contain real cotton now) although that’s usually the province of specialty paper. I don’t think the cardboard getting torn up here has any rag content on purpose. But I wondered if you could add certain kinds of fibers to get certain results.

    1. Huh. That may not be a bad idea. I’d like to know if anybody has a good reason why it wouldn’t be. Is wood fiber useful at all as a reinforcement for concrete? And really I’m talking about mortar, not concrete, since gravel isn’t going to be a good fit for this method, I’m thinking.

      But even if paper isn’t particularly good for this, maybe randomly oriented cut strands of glass fiber would be. According to the Wikipedia article on fiber-reinforced concrete, glass, polypropylene, nylon, PET, and steel fibers have been used, and i can’t help but wonder if hemp would also work. Any of these can be made into a thick mush that can be pressed between two mold halves, as described in the article.

      Which leaves me searching for an application that might be useful for me, but that’s where I was with the article, as it was.

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