3D Printed Bioplastics: Changing the Way We Think About “Going Green”

Additive manufacturing has accelerated the possibility to design, create, and produce at higher frequencies, cheaper costs, and greater volumes. However, there has always been a concentrated effort to reduce the amount of waste and increase the efficiency of the materials being used.

Recycling your 3D printed filament is a great option that many 3D printing enthusiasts are still doing today – check out our link here. However, recycling your filament regularly requires time, precision, and an effort the majority of individuals wouldn’t practice habitually. It may also require additional tools and resources that many may not be able to afford.

The industry is beginning to see a new way to eliminate waste and increase the efficiency of their printable materials.

Bioplastics are beginning to make their way into the 3D material market share and are generating quite a buzz among the community. Bioplastics are bio based polymers that are derived from renewable biomass sources such as conventional food sources (fats and oils) as well as collections of living microorganisms (Microbiota). The vast majority of bioplastics are biodegradable – which is uncommon amongst traditional plastics used in 3D printing which require a large amount of fossil fuels for production and produce much higher greenhouse gases.

The introduction of bioplastics is not only changing the way we think about 3D printing – but how we perceive the next revolution of the manufacturing industry. Two Dutch designers, Eric Klarenbeek and Maartje, have created a bioplastic from cultivating algae – which is then dried and processed in a 3D printable liquid.

(Bowl created from Algae Filament)

(Photography by Antoine Raab - Retrieved from inhabitat.com)

Algae filament is not only emission free, it actually produces an external oxygen source as well. “Algae is equally interesting for making biomass because it can quickly filter CO2 from the sea and the atmosphere,” said the duo. “Everything that surrounds us – our products, houses and cars – can be a form of CO2 binding. If we think in these terms, makers can bring about a revolution. It’s about thinking beyond the carbon footprint: instead of zero emissions we need ‘negative’ emissions.”

These two are not the only bioplastic filament producers on the market – (or even the only algae filament producers.) We are seeing a very diverse collection of options available to the public.

Current popular biodegradable printing plastics such as PLA - are being combined with bioplastics to create a more sustainable and eco-friendly alternative. PLA-Hemp filament is being made available to the public and is extremely durable as it doesn’t come into contact with any water during the production process.

Plant starches are being introduced as a 3D printable filament option as well. Made from 100% all natural (and technically edible) sources – your prints are food safe, odor free, and produce highly flexible creations due to their high softening point. This produces a “bend but don’t break” kind of print.

Although these available filaments may be groundbreaking innovations into the 3D printable community, they are not without their flaws. It is important to always use different nozzles when printing with these materials as it may disrupt or interfere with the efficiency with your printer. Always remember to clean your printer after every print to ensure no long term damage occurs.

Pricing can also be substantially higher as most are still early in their development. Legality of some of these products is highly disputed as well (*cough Hemp).

However, 3D printing is a pioneer for innovation, and seeing the beginning of a highly innovative product market grow inside this industry is exciting and something to keep an eye on. Although there is still plenty of R&D to perfect this electrifying advancement – we may be witnessing the very beginning of revolution in how we design, print & create.

Remember – Repko is determined to meet your printing needs. Send us a message on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or support@repkoprinting.com and let us know what you think of bioplastic filaments. If you require any materials or equipment we don’t currently have in our catalog – let us know and we will explore all possibilities to ensure we meet your needs. Repko does not claim ownership or profit from any of the pictures or articles shared above. Happy Printing!