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Posted: Jun 27, 2014
A chair 3D printed with mushrooms
(Nanowerk News) Studio Eric Klarenbeek in The Netherlands is exploring ways of 3D-printing living organisms, such as mycelium, the threadlike network of fungi, in combination with local raw materials to create products with a negative carbon footprint.
'We are the first in the world to 3D-print living mycelium, using this infinite natural source of organisms as living glue for binding organic waste. Once it's full-grown and dried, it turns into a structural, stable and renewable material. Combined with 3D-printing it gives us tremendous design freedom', says Eric Klarenbeek.
Mycelium Project 1.0 - Myceliumchair.
Most of our surrounding products are created through intensive industrial processes. We're imprisoned in this chain of waste, both in material fabrication as well as the negative effect on our surroundings due to transportation of these materials and goods.
3D-printing just partly provides in a solution, since we can produce locally by connecting nearby 'Makers' through existing web portals. In the Netherlands for example, the available Maker network with 3D-printers is so dense, you can upload a design, and collect it by bike once its finished.
The problem is the applied materials, which are mostly oil based plastics, and industrially produced. The same goes up for 'bioplastics', which also deal with other issues, such as the use of GMO's. Worldwide there are little producers of filaments, resulting in extensive transportation. Secondly there is little attention for the working conditions of Makers, as the printers have no filters and are mostly applied in unventilated spaces. This can cause serious health risks, especially if you consider actual ingredients are kept secret.
As this market is relatively young, the time is now to introduce new possibilities and hand out alternatives.
What makes this unique?
"We've searched for ways to use local resources, and implementing growth in the fabrication process," says Klarenbeek. "3D-printers work by gradually melting and layering plastics. Instead of using plastics, we pile up local land-waste, and the mycelium binds it all together. The machine simultaneously prints the infill and outer shell, which prevents its fresh mycelium and straw mixture from falling apart. After printing, we only have to wait for the structure to grow and gain its strength, which only takes a few days."
This technology can be applied in a broad spectrum of applications. We started with the 'Mycelium Chair' as the archetype for a functional design object. Form-wise the chair is inspired by growth and reflects the unimaginable freedom of 3D printing. The popping out mushrooms are both aesthetic and a 'proof of concept' as you can clearly see the mycelium has successfully grown through its whole structure.
Mycelium Project 2.0 - Veiled Lady 2014.
'Veiled Lady', Mycelium Project 2.0, is printed in one go and inspired by the net structure of its equally named fungus. As we've controlled the growth of mushrooms, they're not in conflict with its function as stool, and hidden as jewelry within its structure. At the moment we're working on a bigger printer for large-scale objects and on improved material properties.
What is it good for?
The plant material produces oxygen during its life cycle, and our production process eliminates the necessity of heating materials in the printing process, thus reducing the use of energy. Adding up those two facts, combined with the use of local resources and production, it becomes possible to create products with a negative 'carbon footprint'. Instead of wasting less, we strive to absorb emission.
After use, the product is fully compostable, and can be disposed without harming the environment. On the contrary, it will fertilize our surroundings!