3D Printing Wooden Objects From Byproducts of The Wood Industry

Every time trees are cut down, byproducts are created. For a long time, they were regarded as pure waste, yet they could benefit the printing industry. Thinking outside the box, a possibility presents itself: Many trees could be saved, if wooden objects would be printed from byproducts.

Trunk Detail Natural

For the first time since the beginning of 3D printing, serious efforts are being made to turn the idea to print wooden objects into reality. Desktop Metal, a company that produces 3D printers, has launched a subcontractor called Forust. The company has developed a process to create wooden objects from byproducts of wood and paper manufacturing, namely cellulose dust and lignin, using 3D printing. The company’s long-term goal is to cut down fewer trees while producing objects made of wood from 3D printers. They could take the form of home decoration or furniture. Among other things, the new printing material aims to meet sustainability goals. Forust is led by Andrew Jeffery, who was previously president of Boston Ceramics. Also involved in the company are co-investors and creative consultants from the field of industrial design.

Creating a Circular Manufacturing Process

Architect William Andrews McDonough, designer and author known for his commitment to sustainable development and the cradle-to-cradle concept, emphasizes

“The Forust technology allows us to take something that was previously wood waste and re-materialize it into exquisitely beautiful and useful things. We are honoring the cellulose and lignin of the trees by rearticulating them into assets for present and future generations. By allowing millions of trees to remain in place in their forests, Forust is launching a highly evolved technology for the circular technosphere that supports and celebrates stewardship of the natural, regenerative, and diverse biosphere, making it not only smart, but wise. (…) The 3D printing of wood using waste natural materials is a gamechanger. We have only begun to explore its beneficial potentials, but it is clear they are immense.”

Products Can be Processed Like Normal Wood

The Forust process combines sawdust and lignin to produce sustainable isotropic, high-strength wooden parts. Depending on the size of the parts, Forust can produce wood products using either the shop system or a customized version of the new RAM 336 3D printer. Both 3D printing processes are production platforms. This circumstance suggests a planned mass production. Layers of specially treated sawdust are applied, which in turn are selectively bonded with a biodegradable and non-toxic binder. A digital grain is printed on each layer. Finally, the products can be processed like normal wood. With its method, Forust offers unlimited design flexibility, Jeffery says.

“From exotic grains to grainless wood, we can digitally reproduce wood textures and a variety of grain types. And because they are made from a wood-bioresin blend, these parts have functionality and stiffness equal to that of conventional wood. Our finished parts are indistinguishable from conventionally manufactured wood products you’d find in a store. The additive manufacturing process literally becomes invisible.”

The Grain Runs Through The Entire Product, Giving Designers The Chance to Create Complex Features

Any wood grain can be digitally reproduced, including, for example, rosewood, ash, zebrawood, ebony and mahogany. Because the grain runs through the entire product and is not just on the surface, designers are able to create complex features and iconic designs that would be difficult or impossible to achieve using traditional woodworking methods. Even after the product is no longer to be used, it can be disposed of sustainably. Either it decomposes in nature or it is recycled.

Which wood product from a 3D printer would you most likely use? Let us know in the comments.

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