3D printing with waste material from (sewage) water treatment

Dutch circular design studio Omlab, in collaboration with Fillip Studios, created biodegradable 3D printed works of art to combat the nitrogen problem in the Netherlands. In addition, Omlab developed a material for 3D printed construction elements. The two varieties of oMatterial, as the collection of material recipes is called, are both made with resources retrieved from sewage and water treatment.

Omlab developed a 3D printable construction material, based on waste material from sewage and water treatment plants, as well as a 3D printer to process the material in collaboration with IDskips. The material is environmentally friendly, and as strong as gypsum blocks. It consists of a mixture of calcite from water softening treatments, cellulose from recycled toilet paper (Recell), and Kaumera, both materials from sewage treatment. Mixed with water, it turns into a paste with properties similar to clay. After printing, the material is air dried and looks similar to 3D printed concrete. In addition, the material can be extruded or pressed.

BuildMatterial, as the material is called, can be used to 3D print stackable construction elements for interior and exterior use.

Maacq Oase
In addition to the construction material, Omlab also developed an environmentally friendly, 3D printable paste made from the waste material that is left over after sewage and water treatment. The material, called ‘ItBetterMatter’ is calcareous, biodegradable and offers nutrition to the soil, especially in places that deal with soil acidification due to nitrogen.

Usually, natural processes ensure that the ratio of substances in the soil is in balance. However, human activities such as traffic emissions and livestock farming causes an excess of nitrogen in the soil, and too little calcium. This causes acidification, which has a negative effect on biodiversity and animal welfare, and is a large issue in the Netherlands.

Omlab x Fillip Studios developed printable sculptures that can be put in acidified environments. The sculptures, when placed in nature, slowly dissolve because of the wind and the rain. The calcium that is released counter soil acidification. To add to the local biodiversity, carefully selected seeds will be included in the printed paste.

For the project, called Maacq Oase, Fillip Studios was inspired by the organic forms and colours that appear in nature through erosion, combined with geometric shapes that remind of human influence on nature.

Maacq Oase is part of Omlab’s research project Maacq, which explores the potential of the circular 3D print material as an ecologically sound alternative for 3D constructive printing. Maacq is a co-operation with the suppliers and developers of the circular resources AquaMinerals, Kaumera Nereda Gum en Energy and Resource Factory (EFGF). In addition, Dirk Hilbers (ecologist, professor of bio-ethics at University of Amsterdam and director and author of Crossbill Guides Foundation) shared his expertise about the local biodiversity, minerals and the soil.

Phots: Fillip Studios / Omlab /