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University of Michigan Researchers Unveil Sustainable 3D Printing Material

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Innovation

University of Michigan Researchers Unveil Sustainable 3D Printing Material

Researchers from the Digital Architecture Research & Technology Laboratory at Michigan State University have developed an eco-friendly 3D printing material made from sawdust


August 25, 2023
DART researchers next to tower constructed using biodegradable sawdust material
Image: Tharanesh Varadharajan, Zachary Keller, Muhammad Dayyem Khan / DART Lab

Researchers at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning’s Digital Architecture Research & Technology (DART) Laboratory have developed a recyclable alternative to concrete building materials. Made from upcycled sawdust, the new material offers builders a more sustainable way to apply concrete casts in the construction process in order to reduce waste and lower the overall environmental impact of new building projects.

The fully biodegradable BioMatters material is produced from sawdust and biopolymers and is delivered via robotic 3D printing in the formwork of buildings, Archinect reports.

"Other sawdust-based solutions are using other petroleum-based polymers — we use biopolymers which are completely decomposable," DART researcher Muhammad Dayyem Khan said, adding that the formwork, once the concrete has cured, can be fully recycled by simply grinding and then rehydrating the material with water for a completely net-zero process.

"The amount of sawdust that is being produced out there — it is a huge chunk of material that is just being dumped or burned," Khan says of the source, which is part of the larger problem of construction waste globally. "So rather than burning it up and generating more CO2 emissions, it is so much better that we make it into a material that is actually capable of being used again and again."

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