New material source meets new technique

Combinations of existing technologies can make two already good ideas really stand out. Take a look at the printed mycelium chair.

In this project, by Studio Eric Klarenbeek, 3D printing and growing material – that’s mushroom spores to you and me – are combined.

The designer explores different ways in which natural materials can be mixed with emerging technologies. The spores of any fungus are called mycelium, and this is the material he uses to print various shapes.

The spongy, white material is tightly networked on a cellular level. It is lightweight and tough. Surprisingly, it is also fire-resistant, making it very interesting for use in a range of design applications.

This is the starting point for Eric Klarenbeek’s experimentation. In effect, he creates a biological substrate for mushrooms and bioplastics.

It’s not complete after leaving the printer, however. The structure continues to grow in the lab. Based on this procedure, the designers printed a mycelium-based chair, in a collaborative effort with scientists from the mushroom research department at WageningenUniversity.

The chair is made mostly of straw and has a thin bioplastic shell. As the chair continues to grow, it becomes stronger, eventually having sufficient strength to support an adult’s weight.

Another advantage to the material is that it is grows very quickly. So perhaps the chair is merely the first step along the road towards components, cars and buildings that can grow themselves, according to specific wishes of the designer.