(MIT.News) Met researchers are experimenting with cellulose to provide a renewable, biodegradable alternative to the polymers currently used in 3D printing materials. Cellulose has formed the basis of the world’s most abundantly printed-on material: paper. “Cellulose is the most abundant organic polymer in the world,” says MIT postdoc Sebastian Pattinson.
The MIT team is using cellulose acetate — a material that is easily made from cellulose and is already widely produced and readily available as a commodity product. In bulk, the material is comparable in price to that of thermoplastics used for injection molding, and it’s much less expensive than the typical filament materials used for 3D printing, the researchers say. This, combined with the room-temperature conditions of the process and the ability to functionalize cellulose in a variety of ways, could make it commercially attractive.