Researchers at Washington State University have developed a composite mixture of PLA and coffee ground waste that is both tough and environmentally friendly. The project aims to illuminate new applications for 3D printing as well as displaying better uses of waste materials. The addition of low-cost additives also decreases the manufacturing costs while allowing for better […]
There are few things as refreshing as orange juice, though one contender may be this “Feel the Peel” machine that both delivers fresh-squeezed orange juice and provides a biodegradable 3D printed cup made from the discarded orange peels. Design firm Carlo Ratti Associati created the machine in collaboration with the energy company Eni to investigate […]
There are several features that make the Fusion3 F410 stand out from other professional 3D printers but one of them is really something special: their Certified Materials List (.pdf 2019 version). The CML ensures every available material is printed with the correct settings for optimized quality and efficiency. Open Material System – Print With 3rd […]
Spanish researchers have developed polymer blends that enhance interlayer bonding for FFF/FDM 3D prints. By mixing together TPU and ABS in various proportions, they have reportedly created new materials with “the appearance of new supramolecular interactions via hydrogen bonding“. In effect, the blends have far better interlayer bonding while displaying no loss in yield strength. […]
Lorena James is a Sustainability Innovator within the Additive Manufacturing Industry. She is the founder of Z SPools, an award-winning Lake Erie-based startup that provides 3D solutions for invasive species. They manufacture a patent ending 3D printing filament out of zebra and quagga mussel shells – two of the most prominent invasive species in the Great Lakes. We’ve written about her great project before.
Give us a brief summary of your life experience and college experience that has gotten you to this point.
My senior year of high school I enrolled in an Entrepreneurial Studies course during which I was introduced to the world of entrepreneurship. Every month, I worked with a team of students to serve as consultants, solving issues faced by local entrepreneurs in my native Buffalo, NY. From golf ball manufacturing to urban farming, I learned a lot about the diverse experiences of entrepreneurs and the passion that guides them in their work. This inspired me to engage in my own entrepreneurial path for my senior thesis project. I was recommended by my entrepreneurial studies teacher to register for a competition called Erie Hack, a pitch competition with the goal of solving water quality and other environmental issues in cities around Lake Erie. This competition propelled me into my work with Z Spools. Through the ideation process up until the pitch day, I worked closely with mentors at my high school and the University at Buffalo. In the end, I won the high school portion of the competition and continued to work with Z Spools as I began the college career at Davidson College. Now, I continue my entrepreneurial path with the many resources available at Davidson including The Hub Entrepreneurial Center, Davidson’s Makerspace, and the Avinger Scholarship. Such work had inspired me to declare an Environmental Entrepreneurship major.
What makes you passionate about the environment?
My family has always been close to nature. I grew up tending to a lush backyard garden, fishing in the Finger Lakes, and hiking in the Niagara River Gorge. In addition, interest in my Native ancestry inspired my study under a local Iroquois medicine man. He owned a shop in my native Buffalo, NY where he sold various herbal remedies. I learned a lot about methods of natural healing and furthered my respect and appreciation for nature. So, when it came time for me to begin the ideation process for my aforementioned senior thesis project, I used inspiration from the natural world to guide me. The circular economy is a concept that is linked with sustainability as well as 3D printing.
How do you feel about the circular economy as a thought process?
Adopting circular economy as a thought process is crucial when applied to living a sustainable life. Such a way of thinking looks different for everybody. As I travel now through Asia this summer, I see that sustainable living looks different in Shanghai than it would in a city like Buffalo. But people inhabiting both of these cities can make little changes in their everyday lives to adopt a circular economy thought process and – in turn – live more sustainable. For example, think of the life cycle of a plastic bag. Such an item has many uses. While it may be initially used to hold grocery items, subsequent uses may include a shower cap or lunch bag. When applied to my work with Z Spools, I utilize such thought processes often, especially when trouble shooting my extrusion process. When an extrusion does not go as planned – maybe the extruded plastic is too thing or has air bubbles – I save the “wasted” plastic and use it for art pieces/sculptures that I create out of the malformed plastic.
What are important things to keep in mind when it comes to manufacturing and environmental sustainability?
Efficiency and life cycle are two important concepts to keep in mind when it comes to manufacturing and environmental sustainability. In terms of efficiency, I refer to the manufacturing process as a whole, but also the development portion. As this applies to manufacturing 3D printing filament, the process can be quite wasteful if one does not keep a detailed record of accurate extrusion temperatures and speeds – among other variables. If the temperature is too hot, then the filament will be too thin for use. If the extrusion speed is too fast, then the filament will be become malformed. This wastes extrusion materials but worry not. This is where life cycle comes into play. Life cycle applies to the creation, use, and post-use of a product. Even if a product has abnormalities and cannot be used for its intended purpose, the material – in this case malformed 3D printing filament – can be used for other purposes. It can be broken down and fed back through a filament extruder. Or, one could be a bit more creative and use the twisted, cracked material for art installations as I have done in the past.
What motivated you to start your startup while in college?
At Davidson, I receive a lot of mentorship and monetary support for my academic and professional endeavors. This is a time in my life where I have the support system to pursue my ambitions. Even if I fail, I have the flexibility and support to pivot without the worry of debt. In addition, it is a wonderful learning experience that enhances my studies as an Environmental Studies student. I am very humbled and grateful to be in such a position as a student at Davidson.
What does your startup do?
We manufacture a patent pending, biodegradable 3D printing filament made of invasive species found in the Great Lakes. We work specifically with zebra and quagga mussel shells, two of the most prominent invasive species in Lake Erie. We start by hand collecting zebra and quagga mussel shells off of beaches mostly in Buffalo, NY. When then process the shells so they can be used to make our filament. I am currently working with two partners (one in Akron, OH and another in Dublin, Ireland) to perfect this manufacturing process. We are also currently working to develop an educational component as to inform our customers about these invasive species and what can be done to lessen their impact on the environment. We are waiting to introduce our product to market until we receive results from our patent application.
What are your thoughts on issues and policies such as the Green New Deal?
It is possible to encourage sustainable living and environmental protection through private movements and enterprises, but their effects will be lessened without the support of public policy and government funding. Such policies are crucial for a more sustainable world. Environmental Sustainability is intrinsically linked with globalization and policy reform,
What do you wish to see in terms of political reform with the US and globally?
Applying my environmental studies to my studies in Shanghai, I believe that more policy should be formed around manufacturing practices in China as it pertains to sustainability. Improvements to manufacturing practices in China would improve many environmental problems in the country including issues of water and air quality. The US and other countries that commonly import goods manufactured or assembled in China also have an important role to play. Enterprises in countries that utilize China’s manufacturing capabilities should push for more sustainable manufacturing practices, because it is these enterprises that are creating the demand for such pollution inducing products.
Lastly, what are your goals for the next 5 years?
In the next five years, I hope to find a co-founder for Z-Spools and expand to become an invasive species consulting service. I wish to develop other methods to utilize invasive species as natural resources not just in the US but in other countries as well, starting in China.
Buzz Baldwin is the founder of 3D Printlife. The company is committed to reducing the environmental impact of 3D Printing. From their Enviro ABS, to their Eco-Friendly spooling and environmental contributions, they strive to deliver customers filaments, while protecting the world. 3D Printlife filaments are all made in the USA.
Give us a summary on your background and how you’ve reached this point in your life and career.
I grew up in New Hampshire. I have always had a love of nature. I went to Berkeley college of music and played in a band for a while. I loved it but I needed to pay the bills. Then I started working for Warner Brothers and worked for their animation scene. I then was looking to be a bit more entrepreneurial. I was sent an article in the Economist, and it was all about the revolution of 3D Printing. It was when all the patents were expiring. I then decided to try and get into the space. I was thinking that it would be a tech that almost everyone would have in their homes. We started looking for manufacturers. I had an imaging background so I was looking into a way to bring in non OEM branded filaments to the scene. Through luck I met a dental hygienist who had a friend who was a biochemist and we connected. This allowed for us to be able to start and make a filament that was our Enviro ABS line. It was eco friendly and compared well property wise to typical ABS filament. That did okay and gave us a great amount of brand recognition. We have been really trying to build a product line that is.
How has your early musical studies background been applicable to your entrepreneurial career?
I have met others in this space with a music background. I think there is a weird super power of looking at a complex scenario and being able to look at areas of improvement. We are able to look at a complex system and the ability to know the problem quickly. A lot of music is very geometrical. This is a simplistic way to look at it and it allows people to see things. Composition and lyric writing was essential for my studies. There are no rules but there are tools. With songwriting you have to create something that is interesting but not too repetitive. It is important to apply this thought process to entrepreneurship. When applied to my company there needs to be quality and differentiation. Anyone can write a song, but how is it memorable or good? It is difficult to make something that innately is boring when it has no real meaning until someone creates the story.
My friend sent me an article about 3D Printing and I thought that was really fascinating. The article did not really give a vision or understanding of what is the process. As a songwriter, you are creating something from nothing. With 3D printing you are able to create something from nothing. I think that is extremely empowering. It opens up a lot of possibilities. It opens up functional creativity. The ability to have decentralized manufacturing is amazing. An inventor in their garage can create a sustainable living for themselves. A remote makerspace in Africa has the possibility to create their own tools and develop. Makerspaces and fab labs around the world can benefit large organizations and people.
How is the field of additive manufacturing critical for the ideals of a circular economy?
It is tough. We have had a lot of people ask about this. Overall the idea is great. On the material side, the degradation of a polymer occurs always once it is used for 3D Printing so it is difficult. There are needs for engineering PEEK, and being able to make materials that are eco friendly. It is still difficult though.
3D Printed Pokemon from 3D Print Clean
What are the biggest concerns of additive manufacturing in terms of sustainability?
It is a tough question to answer. There are so many factors. Additive is a niche space. The great part about it is mostly prototyping and education. There is not a mass production level yet. We all want to change the world. There still needs to be a focus on making sure thermoplastics are placed in the right environment. Biodegradability is only applicable in certain locations. End users should be focused on how this actually important. I would hope additive will create a way for us to reduce mass produced and injection molded parts. It is a larger scale problem that people are somewhat ignorant to this.
What has been the biggest surprise in terms of the work you have done in this industry?
I am surprised by all the creativity out there. There is so much. The space lends itself well to this mindset. One is only limited by their imagination and it is great. There are endless possibilities. One of the biggest surprises is that I as someone who went to school for music can even have an impact on the space. It opens up invention and manufacturing to anyone. A bit of investment can lead a large way for anyone to be able to create something. The level of advancement for using technology to benefit humanity has been tremendous. The ability to think and then conceptualize allows people to build.
U.S based filament manufacturer H and H 3D Plastics is launching a new line of industrial sized spools to facilitate the growth of large format 3D printing. “If you’re producing a 3D print which takes 48 hours or more – and many of our clients already are – you simply don’t want to keep switching […]
stronghero3D is a material producer headquartered in Shenzhen, the tech capital of China. Specializing in the creation of vibrant and rainbow-gradient filaments, the company was founded by Tommy Wu in 2014. In an interview with Wu, 3D Printing Industry learns more about stronghero3D’s plans for global expansion, and how the company aims to humbly stand out […]
Fortify, a Digital Composite Manufacturing (DCM) firm in Boston, and Royal DSM, a Dutch multinational chemical company, have partnered up to develop industrial-grade composite materials for 3D printing end-use parts and structural components. The companies will develop the materials using Fortify’s DCM platform, which is powered by Fluxprint technology where magnets are integrated into DLP […]
In use since at least the 4th century AD, dichroic glass displays different colors depending on how it’s being viewed. Now, Dutch scientists have produced the effect in a material that can be used to create 3D-printed objects – and it’s not just a novelty, as it could have practical applications.
A team of researchers at Wageningen University started with regular polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which is a widely-available polymer commonly used as a 3D printing medium. To this they added gold nanoparticles of varying sizes – not much of the gold was needed, as it ended up constituting only 0.07 percent of the resulting composite material’s weight.