Could mineral plastics be the solution for eco-friendly 3D printing in the future?

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New research from the University of Konstanz in Germany offers a potential solution to the overwhelming problem of petrochemical-based plastics. It is no secret that the production and disposal of these plastics have a detrimental impact on the environment. Moreover, the accumulation of plastic waste in landfills and the ocean poses an additional threat as it breaks down into microplastic particles that contaminate our food supply and slowly invade our bodies with harmful chemicals. Although it may seem impossible to eliminate the use of these materials due to their widespread use and dependency, the aforementioned research presents an alternative approach.

The University of Konstanz has developed a new type of plastic that is both biodegradable and self-healing, referred to as “mineral plastic.” This new class of materials combines minerals with polymers, resulting in exceptional properties such as self-healability, hydrogel stretchability, high hardness, toughness, transparency, and non-flammability when dry. Additionally, these plastics can be transformed into a hydrogel state by adding water, making them easily reshaped and recycled.

While this mineral plastic shows promising potential, it has not yet been considered for use in 3D printing. However, the idea of self-healing plastic seems incredibly desirable for printing objects, as it could automatically seal imperfections during the printing process. The application of this material in 3D printing would depend on factors such as the specific properties of the mineral plastic, the type of 3D printing technology used, and the requirements of the object being printed. Due to the material’s ability to reshape, it is unlikely that it could be used with current 3D printers, both as a filament type or powder. This suggests that a new type of 3D printing process would be necessary to fully utilize this remarkable material.

Although implementing this new technology may require significant effort and changes, it is crucial for the world to move away from petrochemical-based materials. The development of mineral plastics offers a compelling alternative that could significantly reduce our reliance on harmful plastics. The road to adopting this new material in 3D printing may not be straightforward, but it opens up possibilities for a more sustainable future.

Source: Wiley

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