Wood products

Israeli scientists produce 3D printer ‘ink’ capable of producing wooden products

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have unveiled a 3D printer “ink” capable of producing printed wooden materials.

The technology takes organic “wood derivatives” and develops them into a paste, which is then used as ink by a 3D printer. As the dough dries, it deforms into the desired shape.

Doron Kam, a doctoral student working on the project, told The Times of Israel that the technology contains two main steps.

First, the organic material is broken down into “wood flour”, then combined with two other organic products that act like a glue.

In the second step, the material is placed in a 3D printer, which proceeds to print a flat 2D object. In ordinary tree lumber, the cell structure determines the shape the wood will deform into as it dries. However, thanks to new technology from the Hebrew University, scientists can control the cell structure themselves, and therefore control the exact shape the product will take as it dries and deforms.

“We’re trying to make a material that won’t last forever, that’s what plastic is for. We’re not looking for that,” Kam said.

Instead, Kam’s team envisions a material that lasts “three or four years of use, and then you can grind it down and print it again.” This is the sustainability of our product, this is our principle.

The Hebrew University team is focusing its resources on the scientific process behind the concept and has so far only produced small examples.

The ability of the technology to produce items at scale remains to be proven. Kam insisted it could be done, telling The Times of Israel that the printed wood product would retain the same strength and durability as regular tree wood.

Printed wood can even retain the aesthetic properties of its original source, allowing a user to choose between different types of wood, such as oak or pine.

A curved ‘saddle-shaped’ piece produced by a wood-based 3D printing ink developed by researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, September 20, 2022. (Supplied)

Kam said that even after the grinding and printing process, the wood retains a distinct smell based on the species of tree it originally came from.

Products like his could lead to a “sustainable economy at home,” Kam said.

As the cost of living continues to skyrocket, Kam said consumers can expect to see reusable 3D-printed wood products “very very soon.”

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