Just last week, 92 countries worldwide came together to celebrate Earth Day, promoting environmental protection and a greener planet for all. Yet while April 22nd is just one day of the year, Munich-based startupAdditive Elements has made it its mission to create eco-friendly 3D printing solutions during all 365 of them. To fulfill this goal, the young German company recently developed a scalable and fully ecological material system for industrial binder jetting 3D printers that is sustainable, recyclable, and ideal for interior design.
The 3D printing material in question, developed in less than one year, is based on recycled resources or renewable vegetable products that are all FDA approved and bound with a water-based solvent. After the 3D printing process, any excess powder can be saved re-used in the next print job, and the 3D printed objects themselves can be fully recycled, closing the eco-friendly loop. The company hopes that its material system will present industrial 3D printer users with more environmentally conscious, yet still highly functional, manufacturing options.
Though somewhat new to the 3D printing scene, Additive Elements GmbH specializes in developing functional materials for industrial binder jetting 3D printers. Specifically, they seek to work directly with companies that have little to no experience with 3D printing, developing specialized additive manufacturing materials that fit their individual needs. “In various process steps, we investigate for our customers special and unusual materials with one goal: scalable serial production,” they said.
Specifically, with this 100% ecological material system, Additive Elements is targeting the interior design, architecture and furniture manufacturing industries.
Binder jetting additive manufacturing is a process in which a liquid binding agent is used to ‘glue’ together layers of powder particles. As each layer is bonded, the 3D object is formed. Binder jetting 3D printers can use a variety of materials, including metal, sandstone, and ceramic. In addition to being relatively fast and cost-effective, binder jetting can also produce very large-scale 3D objects, making it ideal for interior design and furniture manufacturing.
According to Additive Elements, however, there has been “a lack of material alternatives” for the binder jetting process. “On the market you get sand, plastic or gypsum,” founder Thilo Kramer told 3Ders.org. “Cost intensive, hazardous, or heavy—no material fits for interiors.”
To correct this, he and his team have set out to create an attractive alternative. The end result is a non-toxic, biodegradable material system that can be scaled up for use on large-format 3D printers. In testing, they have 3D printed objects up to 4 meters long. “The scalability on large machine components is ideal for use in areas such as shop fitting, exhibition, and interior design with several meters,” said the company.
Working directly with clients, Additive Elements offers an end-to-end service, including qualification of the material, prototyping, optimizing development and production, and finally scaling the material system to the machine so that effective production can begin. In addition, they are currently working with partnersDyeMansion and Trindo to establish equally eco-friendly surface treatments. The fully ecological material system is set to launch later this year, though prices have yet to be disclosed.
“[The advantages are] full ecological resources, hazardless production, harmless life cycle and easy disposal,” said Kramer. With demand for sustainable 3D printing solutions on the rise, what more could one ask for?