The team at Emerging Objects has a single-minded desire: to 3D print with new materials. They’ve worked with more traditional materials like PLA and resin, experimented on the known edges a bit with chocolate and paper, and really gone out on a limb in printing a tea set made with actual tea and a model of a salt deposit printed in salt. So when confronted with the fact that nearly 260 million tires are discarded in the US every single year, they saw a wealth of material with which they could 3D print new creations.
Given their history of making things from the materials which they serve, you might expect them to have made a tire, but here they have created an object that exists more in service of its past characteristics rather than its former function. The first obstacle to overcome, however, was in the creation of a printable material from all of those used tires. Key in this effort was figuring out how to reduce the material to a powder so that it could be reconstituted into an ‘ink’ for 3D printers. They explained their approach to tackling this problem as well as their hopes for the future of the material:
“Emerging Objects has developed a formula for using recycled rubber content in 3D printing using tires that are cryogenically reduced to a micronized rubber powder with many possible applications in the building industry. We envision using this material to make 3D printed outdoor furniture and as 3D printed panels for exterior building components such as wall panels that can be used for acoustic and sound dampening purposes.”
The first piece they have created, 3D printed in eight pieces that adhere together, has been affectionately titled “Pouff” and has a pocked surface topography meant to be reminiscent of button tufted upholstery. What exactly is the Pouff? Well, that’s very much up to the user. What do you need it to be? The piece could easily serve as a foot rest or a low seat, but given the non-referential nature of its form, it lends itself to creative interaction.
It’s hard to fully evaluate the piece without being able to actually touch it, especially since its materiality is such an integral component of its identity. Another question that arises is in regards to that typical tire smell. The odor of tires isn’t such a problem when they are on your car and outside, but if the Pouff is supposed to be a piece of furniture, it would be a shame to have to hose yourself off after every use. It’s possible that the smell has been eliminated or at least greatly reduced by the process of pulverizing it, but as of press time, I haven’t been able to get any information about that aspect.
Assuming the tire perfume has been dealt with, it is an interesting concept, especially for outdoor furniture, given the durable nature of the material a little rain would only serve to wash it clean. The folks at Emerging Objects are contemplating the possibilities for outdoor furnishings as a way of reusing all of this rubber waste and it is easy to see the potential for such a product. The team behind this particular project included Ronald Rael, Virginia San Fratello, Kent Wilson, Alex Schofield, and Vuong Dao.
No matter what the outcome for this particular piece, the experimentation with materials undertaken in this and other projects by Emerging Objects continue to provide fascinating glimpses into the possibilities of 3D printing with as-of-yet untried materials and hopefully will inspire others to look around them and put other discarded materials to good use. Discuss further in the Emerging Objects Pushes 3D Printing forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source/Images: Emerging Objects]