AMS Spring 2023

3D Printed Wheat Bran Combines with UV Printing to Create Colorful Designs

Inkbit

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Polish startup GREENFILL3D continues to expand the applications for its wheat bran 3D printing feedstock. To make its GF3D Branfill3d material, the company combines PLA with waste from pasta manufacturing. So far, the company has used the filament to 3D print pop-up Point of Sale stands. Now, GREENFILL3D is working with Deckard Design to add full-color UV labelling to the bran-filled parts to make labels for potted plants.

A Polish, Etsy-driven home décor and gadget shop, Deckard Design will distribute the 3D printed products in North America and Europe. Available in two varieties, the posts can be used to describe a range of plants and herbs that one might seed in their garden. GREENFILL3D suggests that the wheat bran improves the surface finish of its parts, while also making them tough. Using 2D UV printing, which Deckard’s founder first relied on for printing colored inks onto metal, Deckard is able to apply colorful images to the wheat material.

I’m always happy to see innovation related to green products. In this case, we are not told how much wheat bran is in the PLA mix. So, we can’t really see just how advantageous this material is—especially if it were compared to cardboard or other alternatives. The use of UV inks makes the products more colorful, but may negate any environmental benefit in the first place. I’m wondering how ecologically sustainable these UV resins are. My guess is that they aren’t. However, the companies say that they are experimenting with environmentally-friendly materials. For now, I want to urge caution before everyone becomes too enthusiastic. We’ve seen eco-friendly materials before, such as 3D printed lignin, 3D printed milk cartons, and more.

Both companies use desktop 3D printers to innovate. I’m hearing of more firms that are developing, iterating, and going to production with extremely low-cost devices, such as Creality 3D printers. In this sense, lower cost printers really do democratize innovation more than in the past by making the technology accessible to anyone that with a few hundred dollars to spare. If they can successfully scale up production, then these businesses will also have a very low cost basis from which to operate. Will someone that got started on a desktop machine ever go to a $200,000 printer? I think that there really is a considerable opportunity here to offer scalable low-cost 3D printing and automation solutions for emerging 3D printing startups. If people can get these inexpensive machines to work well long term, then this could be a big market.

The use of low-cost printers can be expanded widely, as can the combination of UV printing on 3D printed parts. This could be a low-cost method to add color and may be an otherwise overlooked opportunity. There may be a number of opportunities in applications such as packaging and point of sale displays that need to be considered, as well. In addition to that, wheat bran is far from the only material that you can mix in with PLA to get interesting properties and possible ecological benefits, as well. I would love to have more data on just how environmentally friendly this is overall, but there is a lot to be inspired by here.

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