In Sweden, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology have succeeded in 3D printing with a wood-based ink in a way that mimics the unique ‘ultrastructure’ of wood. Their research could revolutionize the manufacturing of green products. Through emulating the natural cellular architecture of wood, they now present the ability to create green products derived from trees, with unique properties – everything from clothes, packaging, and furniture to healthcare and personal care products.
By previously converting wood pulp into a nanocellulose gel, researchers at Chalmers had already succeeded in creating a type of ink that could be 3D printed. Now, they present a major progression – successfully interpreting and digitising wood’s genetic code, so that it can instruct a 3D printer.
It means that now, the arrangement of the cellulose nanofibrils can be precisely controlled during the printing process, to actually replicate the desirable ultrastructure of wood. Being able to manage the orientation and shape means that they can capture those useful properties of natural wood.
A further advance on previous research is the addition of hemicellulose, a natural component of plant cells, to the nanocellulose gel. The hemicellulose acts as a glue, giving the cellulose sufficient strength to be useful, in a similar manner to the natural process of lignification, through which cell walls are built.