Developing Advanced Wood-Based 3D Printing Technology with the Would Wood Project

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3D printed wood vases made with PolyWood filament.

3D printed vases made with PolyWood wood-mimicking filament.

As part of their mission to promote the advancement of manufacturing, transportation, labor and communication technologies, the Swedish government agency Vinnova is assembling a consortium to develop new, integrated materials and production concepts to produce large-scale advanced 3D printed wood-based structures and objects. The Would Wood project is made up of an interdisciplinary group of businesses, colleges, students, designers and architects. The project is looking to research and develop the sustainable materials and manufacturing processes of the future.

Their primary goal is to start by developing new 3D printing technologies and wood-based materials capable of manufacturing furnishings and small-scale structural elements. However, they envision longer-term goals that will include scaling up their research to produce medium- and large-scale 3D printed wood structures and construction projects that can be used to make future cities more sustainable and eco-friendly.

3dp_wouldwood_innventia_logoThe Would Wood project is just one of the 31 new projects being funded by Vinnova and their Challenge-Driven Innovation program. The government agency has currently invested 16 million krona ( around USD $1.9 million) to the initiative. The consortium consists of the three architects who submitted the application–Cesilia Silvasti, Kayrokh Moattar and Lily Huang–and includes Swedish architectural firm White, the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) School of Architecture and the Mechatronics group at Machine Design. The project will be coordinated by Mikael Lindström of Innventia, a Stockholm-based research institute developing technology for the sustainable use of raw forest materials.

“We believe that this technology will change the way we look at all aspects of sustainability, including quality of life, environment, logistics, materials strategies, energy and transportation. It’s a very exciting time and we see 3D printed wood as an innovative, sustainable and obvious material in the biobased economy of the future,” says Lindström.

3dp_wouldwood_PolyWood_filament

PolyWood filament mimics real wood materials.

The consortium believes that new 3D printing materials are not being optimally developed if they are made for existing technologies and manufacturing processes. Rather they believe that it is ideal to develop new materials in conjunction with the development of new technologies and manufacturing processes. Would Wood will attempt to create new, innovative wood-based additive manufacturing materials as well as the manufacturing technologies and techniques to go along with it.

One of the principal challenges the group will face is developing and modernizing existing and current wood material and product manufacturing and fabrication techniques so they can be adapted or augmented for 3D printing. Would Wood is attempting to bring together the development of wood materials, advanced robotics and the additive manufacturing processes–not to mention designing new tools that will help them develop sustainable wood-based composites that will be suitable for the production of medium- and large-scale 3D printing.

Gemini Chair: A stunning chaise longue that she designed by MIT professor Neri Oxman combines 3D printing composite materials and 3D CNC milling.

Gemini Chair: A stunning chaise longue that she designed by MIT professor Neri Oxman combines 3D printing composite materials and 3D CNC milling.

Another goal of the project is to develop ways that 3D printing materials can be produced locally rather than imported and would not require large stockpiles of materials to be stored. This will reduce waste by removing the need to produce materials at high rates, which could also reduce the impact on the environment. It also allows local customers to be sure that the materials are high-quality and will be manufactured in facilities with excellent working conditions.

Custom 3D printed wood chair.

Custom 3D printed wood chair.

The 3D printing materials can also be customized for the needs of smaller, local communities and not be reliant on the more homogeneous requirements of larger group of consumers. This is ideal for creating customized furnishings, and combining 3D printing and 3D manufacturing techniques to develop new ways to make consumer products.

“Our vision is to radically change the way we produce everything from furniture, accessories and structural elements to entire buildings. In that way, we lay the groundwork for a new chain of products and services based on 3D-printed wood,” says Lindström.

The Would Wood project believes it is vital for fields like architecture, design, robotics, mechatronics and materials engineering to work across industry boundaries and include ideal from education, the psychology of perception and the forestry industry. By generating an operating interdisciplinary exchange of knowledge, experience and ideas Would Wood hopes to 3D print a more natural future.

 

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