3D Printing Highly Complex Objects with Cellulose

Trees produce cellulose themselves and use it to build complex structures with impressive mechanical properties, which makes cellulose attractive to materials scientists looking to manufacture sustainable products. Researchers from ETH Zurich have 3D printed objects with higher cellulose content than that of any other additively manufactured cellulose-based parts. In doing so, they have created objects of almost unlimited complexity, including an ear based on a human model. They combined printing via direct ink writing (DIW) method with a subsequent densification process to increase the cellulose content of the printed object to a volume fraction of 27%. There are many potential applications, from customized packaging to cartilage-replacement implants for ears. This kind of cellulose technology also has applications in the automotive industry; Japanese carmakers have already built a prototype of car with body parts made almost exclusively of cellulose-based materials.