Wood-based 3D printing materials, at first glance, aren’t all that exciting. Certainly they aren’t as sexy as the titanium alloys being developed for the aerospace industry. But gloss over them at your own peril. A new generation of wood-based materials may be the future of 3D printing.
Voxeljet listed wood powder as a material it is developing in its registration statement with the SEC, filed on September 17th, 2013. So what is Voxeljet, a company that specializes in larger printers that produce castes and cores for investment casting processes, doing developing wood powder materials?
This evidence suggests a larger market for large-scale wood printed materials. The most apparent opportunity would be in the design industry, where 3D printers could be used by designers and architects alike to create anything from chairs, to tables, to design elements.
An added bonus is that the 3D printing processes actually create a grain pattern in wood 3D printed objects, enabling applications in high design. Furniture is one of the world’s largest low-tech industries and any significant market share in this sector represents a serious opportunity.
Wood powder is also getting looks for its green properties. The wood pulp that takes up lot of the space in the material is sawdust, more or less. In the future, wood powder could be recycled material. Even considering the environmental impact the binder that is used to glue the wood powder together, the environmental footprint of the wood-based material is less than plastic alternatives, such as ABS or PLA.
Eco-friendly characteristics and large opportunities mean wood-based materials may be more attractive than one’s first impressions.