A stealthy startup utilizes seaweed and coffee grounds in 3D printing to capture carbon.

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3D Printing and Sustainability: Marvel Labs’ Mission to Repurpose Waste

When we think of 3D printing, we often envision the exciting potential it holds for reshaping production and reducing the use of feedstock. However, what tends to receive less attention is the technology’s ability to repurpose materials. This is where Marvel Labs, a 3D printing startup, comes into the picture. Recently emerging from stealth mode, the company is now in talks with investors to scale up its operations. What sets Marvel Labs apart is its focus on not only revitalizing waste materials but also capturing carbon in the process.

Marvel Labs takes disused waste, including seaweed, coffee grounds, and sawdust, and processes them for use in a 3D printing technique called binder jetting. Unlike traditional 3D printing methods that often rely on plastics and toxic glues, Marvel Labs’ technology uses a bio-based binder and biologically derived materials. This means that the entire process is 100% environmentally friendly with no harmful byproducts.

The company’s co-founder and CEO, Jake Miller, was previously the head of innovation for new programs at United Technologies. After witnessing the extent of the sustainability crisis, Miller decided to dedicate his expertise to finding a solution. In 2017, he began researching the possibility of 3D printing biomass waste and eventually teamed up with binder jetting veteran Andy Jeffery to establish Marvel Labs.

Jeffery, Marvel Labs’ head of sustainability, explains the urgent need for their innovative approach: “We have a net loss of forest every year, and if it keeps going, we’ll run out of trees by 2100. At Marvel Labs, we want not only to do something with that waste but help regenerate the Earth in the process.” Their vision is to repurpose waste while simultaneously addressing environmental issues and supporting sustainability.

One of Marvel Labs’ notable partnerships is with Carbonwave, a company specializing in converting excessive seaweed into a fine powder. This collaboration allows Marvel Labs to utilize the world’s largest seaweed bloom, known as sargassum, in their binder jetting operations. Geoff Chapin, CEO of Carbonwave, highlights the potential of this partnership: “This will allow sargassum-affected areas to turn a liability into assets, quite literally, that are sustainably sourced, prevent methane emissions, and have a far more efficient supply chain.”

Notably, Marvel Labs’ technology also offers a significant opportunity for carbon capture. As the powder used in the printing process is obtained from wasted biomatter, it becomes an effective and sustainable form of carbon capture. While 1,000 machines could capture 81,000 tons of CO2 per year, the potential increases exponentially with larger machines and more products produced. This offsets the carbon emissions from the millions of parcels delivered each year in densely populated areas like Mumbai.

In addition to their promising technology, Marvel Labs is already entering the market with impressive partnerships. Spanish manufacturer FINSA plans to order a fleet of 20 printers to produce home goods at scale using Marvel Labs’ technology. Another exciting collaboration is with Laughing Man Coffee & Tea, where Marvel Labs is 3D printing consumer goods made from waste coffee grounds.

Marvel Labs’ mission to repurpose waste and tackle sustainability challenges through 3D printing is groundbreaking. By transforming biomass waste into useful objects, they not only reduce the strain on natural resources but also actively contribute to carbon reduction. The future looks promising for Marvel Labs, and their innovative approach may inspire other companies to embrace sustainable practices and creative solutions.

Marvel Labs is revolutionizing sustainable technology with their innovative use of 3D printing. By reusing coffee grinds, they are able to create affordable, user-friendly, and sustainable consumer products such as mugs, travel mugs, and home goods on behalf of Laughing Man Coffee & Tea. This collaboration has the potential to transform cafes into on-site manufacturing opportunities, creating jobs and opportunities for the local communities.

But it’s not just about the materials used in the products, it’s also about how they are made. Marvel Labs focuses on using materials that are readily available in each region. For example, they utilize discarded coffee grounds in the U.S. and cassava in South America. By locating their 3D printing machines close to the source of the raw materials, they minimize transportation costs and reduce the reliance on supply chains.

One of the most surprising aspects of Marvel Labs’ systems and materials is the cost. Industrial 3D printers and their feedstock are typically expensive, making mass production applications cost prohibitive. However, Marvel Labs has found a way to use biowaste, which is already cheap and abundant, resulting in lower production costs compared to traditional methods. This not only benefits customers but also contributes to healing our ecosystem.

The only thing missing for Marvel Labs to bring these innovative products to consumers is the necessary capital. They are currently in talks with investors who share their vision of a future focused on local, sustainable manufacturing. With the right support, Marvel Labs hopes to make their motto a reality: “Local. Sustainable. Manufacturing.”

The collaboration between Marvel Labs and Laughing Man Coffee & Tea is a shining example of how technology and sustainability can go hand in hand. By utilizing resources that would otherwise go to waste, they are able to create affordable and eco-friendly products. This not only benefits the environment but also creates opportunities for job growth and economic development. With the potential to expand globally, this technology has the power to make a lasting impact on communities around the world.

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