3D-Printer Extrudes Paper Pulp Instead Of Plastic

We’ve seen all sorts of 3D-printers on these pages before. From the small to the large, Cartesians and deltas, and printers that can squeeze out plastic, metal, and even concrete. But this appears to be the first time we’ve ever featured a paper-pulp extruding 3D-printer.

It’s fair to ask why the world would need such a thing, and its creator, [Beer Holthuis], has an obvious answer: the world has a lot of waste paper. Like 80 kg per person per year. Thankfully at least some of that is recycled, but that still leaves a lot of raw material that [Beer] wanted to put to work. Build details on the printer are sparse, but from the photos and the video below it seems clear how it all went together. A simple X-Y-Z gantry moves a nozzle over the build platform. The nozzle, an order of magnitude or two larger than the nozzles most of us are used to, is connected to an extruder by a plastic hose. The extruder appears to be tube with a stepper-driven screw that lowers a ram down onto the pulp, squeezing it into the hose. [Beer] notes that the pulp is mixed with a bit of “natural binder” to allow the extruded pulp to keep its shape. We found the extrusion process to be just a wee bit repulsive to watch, but fascinating nonetheless, and the items he’s creating are certainly striking in appearance.

This may be the first pulp printer to grace our pages, but it’s not the first pulp hack we’ve featured. Pulp turns out to be a great material to keep your neighbors happy and even makes a dandy fuel.

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Need Strength? It’s Modified Wood You Want!

Wood is surely one of the most versatile materials available. It can be found in a huge variety of colours and physical properties depending on the variety of the tree that grew it, and it has been fashioned into all conceivable devices, products, and structures over millenia. It’s not without shortcomings though, and one of the most obvious is that it can’t match the strength of some other materials. To carry large forces with a piece of wood that piece has to be made much larger than a corresponding piece of steel, something which is not a problem in a roof truss, but significantly difficult in a car body.

There have been a variety of attempts to strengthen the structure of wood in the past, and the latest has recently been published as a Nature paper. In it is described a process of first treating natural wood in a chemical bath to remove lignin and leave only the cellulose structure, followed by sustained compression at high temperature. This causes the cellulose fibres to interlock, and leaves a much denser wooden board with an equivalent strength that is described as near that of steel. They’ve posted a video which we’ve placed below the break, showing some ballistic tests on their material.

All new materials are of interest, but assuming that this one can be commercialised it makes for a particularly exciting set of possibilities. Wooden motor vehicles for example, new techniques for wooden aircraft or boats, or as an alternative in some applications where carbon fibre might currently find an application.

We’ve looked at a very similar process in the past for producing transparent wood. The good news for Hackaday readers that takes this from esoteric scientific paper to fascinating possibility though is that it can be done at home. Can any of you replicate the pressing step to take it to the next level?

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Take Your 3D Printing To The Next Dimension

In what is being hailed as the next great advancement in 3D printing, scientists have been able to get a 3D printed shape to change form when it is exposed to water, bringing 3D printing squarely into the realm of the fourth dimension. Although the only examples we’ve seen so far are with relatively flat prints (which arguably subtracts one “D” from the claim) the new procedure is one which is groundbreaking for the technology.

The process uses cellulose fibers which, when aligned in a particular way and exposed to water, swell in order to change shape. This is similar to how a bimetallic strip in a thermostat works, but they really took their inspiration from biological processes in plants that allow them to change shape according to environmental conditions. It’s hard to tell if this new method of printing will forever alter the landscape of 3D printing but, for now, it’s an interesting endeavor that will be worth watching. The video after the break shows a fast-motion print using the technique, followed by a demo of the print submersed in water.

We often see new technological advancements that use biology as a springboard for new ideas, and this one is no different. There have been building structures inspired by pinecones and this Processing hack inspired by squid. Biology is all around us, and any of it could be used for inspiration for your next project!

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