3D printing wood that looks like the real deal
US-based start-up Forust developed a method to 3D print sawdust into objects which look and feel as if they were cut from the actual material.
Every year, 15 billion trees are cut down to produce paper, homes and furniture. Traditionally, woodworking is the opposite of 3D printing. Rather than adding material, it is subtracted until the desired shape remains. Due to this process, millions of tonnes of wood waste in the form of sawdust is generated. Generally, this is turned into particle board of pellets for energy, while the remainder is sent to the landfill of burned. As the material decomposes or is burned, it releases the CO2 the trees captured during their lifetime back into the atmosphere.
With 3D printing, Forust aims to give new life to two discarded resources: sawdust and lignin (a waste material of paper production). Unlike particle board or laminate, they produce “3D printed, digitally rematerialized wood, with grain that flows across the entire part”. The material can be sanded and refinished like real wood without the loss of realism. The strength of the material is also comparable to real wood.
The technology allows the imitation of nearly any wood grain, “from Ash to Zebrano and from Ebony to Mahogany”. It also allows for new design opportunities in wood. Since the parts are formed layer by layer without the need for supports, parts can be created that are complex or even impossible to make with traditional woodworking methods.
The method is suitable for luxury car interiors, consumer goods, architecture, and furniture. Famous designer Yves Behar designed several Forust samples. After use, the objects could theoretically be ground down and reused indefinitely.