If you grew up in the 1980s or ’90s, you’re likely familiar with Chia Pets, those terra cotta figures shaped like animals, cartoon characters or people’s heads. All you had to do was put moist chia seeds in the terra cotta’s grooves, and they would quickly sprout and give you a green fuzzy “pet.” Chia Pets are still around today, though not as popular as they used to be. Now a German filament maker has designed a sort of Chia Pet for the 21st century. Kai Parthy of Lay Filaments has designed unusual 3D printing filaments in the past, and his latest, GROWLAY, brings to mind a technological Chia Pet, though you can use it to grow much more than just chia seeds.
GROWLAY filament is microcapillary, meaning that it has cavities that absorb and store water, dissolved nutrients or fertilizer. Place seeds or spores on the 3D printed material, and you can grow grass, moss, lichen, fungus, and even cheese or pharma-cultures. The material acts like a breeding ground, allowing for indoor farming without soil. Grass seeds can easily catch and sprout through the filament, while mold grows through the open-cell capillaries and forms a mycelium. The filament also has space for roots to grow, anchoring grass and other small plants to the 3D printed structure. Even fungal spores can germinate in the tiny cavities, so you can grow your own mushrooms. (Maybe not eat them, though – you can never be too careful with mushrooms.)
GROWLAY can be sterilized for food or research purposes with liquid or gas, though not thermally. The material is an absorptive carrier for agents and comes in two different versions: GROWLAY White and GROWLAY Brown. GROWLAY White is fully compostable and has open capillaries, and is a more experimental filament designed for experienced users. GROWLAY Brown is easier to print, with higher rigidity, temperature stability and tensile strength than GROWLAY White. It also has open capillaries, but contains organic nutrients in the form of wood particles to help your plants or cultures grow.
If you want a different color option than white or brown, GROWLAY can also be colored with food coloring. There are many possibilities for a filament like this – adding some grass seed or moss to an intricate 3D print will provide some creative decor, or some alfalfa or broccoli seed will sprout into edible greens. If you’re brave, you can try growing your own cheese, or you can conduct your own research on mold or fungi.
Lay Filaments has a number of other unique materials, such as the lightweight LAYWOOD and the reflective REFLECT-O-LAY. GROWLAY is the latest addition to the filament line, and may be the most interesting yet – it’s not every day you encounter a 3D printing material that allows you to grow food or conduct scientific research.
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