Architectural design firm Emerging Objects, like several other companies, claims to have invented 3D printing with wood. Theirs, they say, is a strong and rigid material, which seems to be true judging by photos of objects made with it, like this architectural wood-block element. It was invented as an alternate building material. (Source: Emerging Objects)
Great step forward Ann. This could open new doors for the manufacturing of wooden products. One can now make wood products according to customers' preferences. Without much cost, the users can enlarge or abridge the size of the wooden products they want, and also use their preferred type of wood in the manufacturing phase. As a result of intermixing of various materials with wood, new and unique hybrid products would be produced. Perhaps we could save some trees in the process as well. No?
Thanks, Daniyal_Ali. Although I was surprised that it was already being done. The maker space isn't my beat so I'm less aware of what people are doing there, but it's a start, and the quality is about what you'd expect from those machines. The high-end art stuff is what really knocked my socks off. I think there's a great potential for recycling and, as you point out, saving trees.
This is really an excellent development, since all kinds of things can be made, and not much limitation on the shapes of things.
What is a real added advantage is that the wood fibers can come from our own "deconstructed" housing, those buildings being torn down for various reasons. So there is no need to harvest trees to make all of this stuff, the feedstock is already available, for free, or just for the taking. So using wood like this provides a doubled benefit.
Agreed. If this is strong and stable enough to use in architecture, we may be in for a new era of design. Since the late 50's things have become boxier and blander. This could help bring back craftsmanship and detailing without the high cost.
William, the source of the wood fibers wasn't always clear, but that would be a great idea if it's feasible. The fibers in old wood shavings & sawdust are pretty different from those in new wood shavings & sawdust, and might not have the right properties.
Ann, It is certainly true that shavings and sawdust do change as they oxidize and their moisture level varies. But I was thinking of the whole lumber, which while being old has been protected from the majority of the destructive forces. I would be interesting to find out from the developers of this technology about what would work and what would not work so well. One thing is certain is that wood that has been sheltered for 50 years has a much lower moisture content.
I actually meant whole wood as well as the shavings and sawdust made from it. I've now lived in two old houses that I've helped rebuild parts of, and repurposing old wood has been interesting. Most of it that wasn't downright rotten simply was weaker, especially if it was a softwood like pine or Doug fir. In the west we also have redwood, which can last for a very long time without decaying. I decided to keep the 60-year-old redwood bones of my current cabin because they're in excellent condition, and you can't get that quality redwood anymore for any price. But I'm replacing most of the Doug fir. I've had much of that chipped and it sure is different from fresh new wood chips. So I guess it really depends on what wood, where it's located, what job it did in the building, and what kind of damage--insect, moisture, etc--it underwent.
NIST's new five-year strategic plan for its Material Measurement Laboratory lists additive manufacturing materials development as one of the main areas it will support by developing measurements, data, techniques, and models.
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