CLINTON, Tenn., February 19, 2018 – It only seems appropriate that a technology as fast-growing as 3-D printing somehow incorporate bamboo, the woody grass that can grow at the astonishing rate of three feet in 24 hours. And so it has, thanks to innovative compounding development work by Techmer PM, in conjunction with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (www.ornl.gov).
Techmer PM, the Clinton-based materials design firm, took a bamboo fiber-reinforced biopolymer developed and engineered by ORNL and found a way to compound it to make it usable for a variety of challenging applications, including 3-D printing. Based on polylactic acid (PLA), these composite materials are now available for sale from Techmer PM.
The two organizations collaborated with Branch Technology (www.branch.technology), a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based fabrication firm that is developing 3-D printing for construction applications, and SHoP Architects (www.shoparc.com), a New York-based architectural firm, to develop a large-scale, eye-catching installation that provided seating and counter space in a public plaza at the entrance to the 2016 Design Miami Exposition (view brief video: https://vimeo.com/214207883).
SHoP co-founder Gregg Pasquarelli said, “We use technology as a way to take traditional materials and experimental materials and use them in a new way that people are inspired.”
Dubbed “Flotsam & Jetsam,” the project used 100% bio-based composite materials to 3-D print the complex architectural structure directly from digital design, with no waste. The structure had one-third of the embodied energy and an order of magnitude lower carbon footprint compared to the carbon fiber-reinforced resin systems normally used in large-scale additive manufacturing. The Techmer PM material is also biodegradable and designed for high-speed printing.
The project – since reinstalled in the Miami Design District’s iconic Jungle Plaza to house an outdoor cultural event space for long-term public enjoyment – was honored in the design category at the recent CAMX 2017 trade fair in Orlando with the “Innovation in Green Composites Design Award.” This honor – part of the show’s Awards for Composites Excellence (ACE) program – is presented to the composites product that best exemplifies innovation that minimizes the environmental footprint or offers an attractive life cycle assessment of the product.
The new compounds are part of Techmer PM’s additive manufacturing product family and are designed for 3-D printing applications where environmental features such as biodegradability are preferred. These recyclable products, which are used on pellet-fed, additive manufacturing equipment, are well-suited for single- and limited-use products, as well as packaging and promotional items.
The company developed the custom materials using PLA resin reinforced with bamboo fiber, both made from 100 percent renewable sources. These compounds have subsequently found use in a variety of commercial and residential interior applications.
“Using bamboo fiber as a composite material offers several advantages over traditional, petroleum-based additive manufacturing materials,” said Soydan Ozcan, senior scientist at ORNL. “Biomaterials require less energy to produce, have a lower carbon footprint, and are biodegradable at the end of their useful life.”
Techmer PM, meanwhile, enjoys pushing the envelope when it comes to materials design, noted Tom Drye, vice president of emerging markets and innovation. “We continue to focus on designing custom, sustainable materials for demanding applications that can be used in a variety of processes, including 3-D printing,” he said.
About Techmer PM
Techmer PM is a leading materials design company that works in partnership with plastics processors, OEMs, and designers to solve some of their most difficult business, manufacturing, and sustainability challenges. The company’s solutions modify the aesthetics, as well as extend and maintain the physical properties of plastic products. The company designs custom solutions for customers to maximize performance through collaboration and by leveraging its leading-edge technology. Techmer PM was recognized by Plastics News “Best Places to Work” for 2014, 2016 and 2017. R&D Magazine recently honored Techmer PM for its innovative materials design work by naming it a winner in the Process/Prototyping category for the 2017 R&D 100 Awards program. Learn more by visiting techmerpm.com.
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