Waste-Based 3D Printing Filament Wins SXSW Award


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Climate tech company UBQ Materials, a certified B Corp, is focused on helping manufacturers transition to more sustainable business practices. To do this, the Israeli startup developed an advanced conversion technology that creates advanced materials, such as its patented, bio-based UBQ thermoplastic, made from unsorted household waste.

This month, the startup announced that its proprietary waste-based 3D filament won first place in the Speculative Design category at the 24th annual SXSW Innovation Awards. The awards, held at the Austin Convention Center during the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festivals, recognize the most exciting technology developments throughout the connected world.

L-R: Shay Ben-Moshe, Sales and Business Development, and Derek Schaefer, VP of Business Development, for UBQ Materials, accept the Innovation Award in Austin. Photo courtesy of UBQ Materials.

Hundreds of applications were submitted this year, and out of 65 selected finalists, UQB Materials was one of just 15 SXSW Innovation Awards winners. The Speculative Design category that the startup won is awarded to design solutions that are focused on the opportunities, possibilities, and challenges that the future can bring. The other finalists in the category this year were Coldsnap’s Flash Freeze Premium Ice Cream On-Demand, Biometric Ignited Solo Blade from SOLO Secure, XEDEC Tri-Screen 2 by Xebec, and Katalyst Training System by Katalyst Interactive, Inc. A panel of judges, which included industry experts and peers, graded each entry on its creativity, function, form, and overall experience.

“Many of the judges expressed that this year was one of the toughest years to choose between finalists. It was interesting to see how companies became innovative during the pandemic and how they sought change in a less collaborative world for nearly three years,” said SXSW Conference Programmer Cassandra Kuhn.

UBQ Materials, based in Tel Aviv, converts unsorted waste on its way to the landfill—including organics—into a recyclable thermoplastic material. Often, 3D printing will use oil-based thermoplastics, but the startup’s proprietary manufacturing material substitutes oil-based resins. UBQ Materials partnered with R&D company Plastics App, which is focused on plastics and polymers innovation, to develop its award-winning, waste-based 3D filament, made with the climate-positive UBQ thermoplastic.

PepsiCo is using shipping pallets made with UBQ. Image courtesy of UBQ Materials via Instagram.

Some big names have recently worked with UBQ Materials and used its novel filament to bring their carbon footprint down. Examples of these partners include Mercedes-Benz, Osem-Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Ambev, the Brazilian subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev—the world’s largest beer brewer. This is proof that the startup is being recognized as a sustainability leader in the AM industry.

“3D printing enables manufacturers across industries the option to design complex products with near immediate customizations that otherwise might be impossible to produce using conventional manufacturing methods. The use of UBQ™ in the printing filament offers manufacturers the ability to gain the benefits of 3D printing, while capitalizing on the reduced carbon footprint enabled by UBQ™. With this innovation, 3D printing may become the most environmentally conscious means of production available,” explained Tato Bigio, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of UBQ Materials. “We are thrilled that the SXSW Innovation Awards judging panel recognized this significant achievement and are incredibly proud to have been named the winner in this category.”

By using sustainable UBQ-based filaments for 3D printing, manufacturers can reap all the benefits of the flexible, cost-competitive manufacturing process, and keep their carbon footprint lower at the same time.

As UBQ Materials explained in a blog post, 3D printing needs a lot of energy, produces fumes with toxic by-products, and uses non-biodegradable materials, like plastics. So as much as people in the AM industry might like to tout our technology as super sustainable, this isn’t quite the reality of the situation. But, there are plenty of innovators working towards sustainability, like UBQ Materials, or 6K Additive and its mission to recycle scrap to make metal powder. Covestro turns trash into pellet 3D printing material, and GREENFILL3D and Maspex Group produce displays for boxed pasta out of filament made from biodegradable ingredients like PLA and wheat bran. There are plenty of other examples as well. So hopefully in the future, 3D printing can talk the talk and walk the walk of sustainability.

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