Image Source: 3DPrint.com
Ever since the creation of the 3D printer, colleges have found a way to make use of them. They create anything from toys and art to building models of molecules. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is among the first to making strides towards making a more organic material for the 3D printing process. Earlier this year, MIT researchers were able to successfully 3D print using cellulose, an abundant organic polymer. Cellulose is biodegradable and inexpensive; there are many uses for cellulose as well because of its robustness and versatility given its chemical compound.
There were many other attempts at using cellulose for 3D printing, but failed. Plastic polymers are usually heated up to become malleable, but when cellulose is heated up, it will thermally decompose. MIT overcame this issue that was caused by special hydrogen bonds, by using cellulose acetate dissolved in acetone, one with less problematic bonds. The acetone is there because with a very high vapor pressure, it will evaporate very quickly; this will make for a clean printing process. By printing with cellulose, not only would it be more environmentally friendly and cost effective, but the polymers may be stronger than traditional plastics and quicker to manipulate because it requires no heating.
Cellulose is also malleable in the sense that you can add certain properties to it during the 3D printing process. For example, the researcher at MIT Sebastion Pattinson says his team added antimicrobial dye to a set of surgical tweezers so that when a fluorescent light is shined on it, the bacteria would be killed off. Since cellulose is such a versatile material, there are so many different functionalities that can developed, which is the reason that is used in many products.
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