3D-printing with Grass
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With the kilos of failed plastic projects the 3D printing community produces every week, it’s always important think about environmentally friendly options as well – and there are plenty bio 3D printable materials out there. Even, it turns out, for those initiatives that are trying to 3D print entire homes. Dutch bio business NNRGY is developing a 3D printable concrete based on Miscanthus Giganteus, a grass species found in East Asia sometimes called giant Chinese silver grass, and will be using it to build various structures and objects in the Netherlands, over the next two years.
This interesting company is the brainchild of bio-entrepreneur Jan-Govert van Gilst, who was inspired to start NNRGY when visiting Borneo in 2009. Why, he wondered, destroy rainforests to transport high energy plants halfway across the world, if you can just grow them elsewhere? Back in the Netherlands, he began to cultivate high energy Miscanthus Giganteus, in part for use in bio initiatives and in part to produce CO2.
Now, together with partners TU Eindhoven, Cybe and Concrete Valley, NNRGY will be building a Living Lab to develop lightweight, environmentally friendly objects and structures with this Miscanthus Giganteus. With this plant, bio concrete will be mixed and 3D printed for a variety of applications. The eventual goal? To use the same materials in the construction industry for the building of homes.
This sustainable mortar that is being developed is good for the people, the planet, and the profits, the developers say. Essentially, it’s a mixture of components with a very small environmental footprint that is also easily useable. The grass itself adds valuable fibers and cellulose. The mortar needs to be fire resistant, isolating, energy saving and not (much) more expensive than existing alternatives. 3D printing also plays a role in that process, as it reduces waste and makes small-scale manufacturing possible. It will even make it possible to produce constructions that were either unobtainable or too expensive to make.
The grass at the center of this process is currently being used by NNRGY to make bio-plastic, and is being cultivated all on ground that was previously intended for unfunded building projects. How sustainable do you like it? It materials are grown locally and processed locally by local entrepreneurs, with the products being developed locally and the concrete being locally 3D printed for local homes.