3D printing with waste mussel shells

PhD candidate Marita Sauerwein at Delft University of Technology developed a way to create a 3D printing filament made from a major waste stream in the Netherlands: mussel shells.

The aim of Sauerwein’s project was to develop a sustainable 3D printing material. In the Netherlands, there are many large scale mussel processing plants, which create a huge waste stream of mussel shells that are commonly discarded. Therefore, it was an appropriate place to start.

To create a sustainable filament, the most important ingredient, aside from ground up mussel shells, was the binding agent. This material influences whether or not the filaments fits within the circular economy philosophy.

Initially, Sauerwein mixed the ground up mussel shells with sugar water. After drying, the material because a ceramic-like material. Sauerwein used this to 3D print a lampshade. The material could easily be reused by dissolving it into water, but this also means the material is not water proof and therefore has limited use.

Therefore, Sauerwein created a water-resistant version by ion crosslinking a biopolymer. This reaction can be reversed, producing a printable paste once again. Using this material, she made a flat hair accessory that when made wet again could be bent or shaped to fit the curve of the head.

Photos: Delft University of Technology