The Future of 3D Printing Could be Reshaped by Insects Through the Chitosan Revolution.

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The Buzz about the Future of 3D Printing

In recent years, there has been a growing concern surrounding the excessive amount of plastic waste generated by desktop 3D printers. While the marvel of witnessing objects materialize before our eyes is undeniably amazing, the aftermath of these machines is often a trail of plastic debris. This plastic waste can come from a variety of sources, including filament scraps, support materials, failed prints resembling spaghetti, and even successful prints that are rendered obsolete during product development iterations. Ultimately, this plastic waste ends up decomposing into microplastics, which pose a significant threat to the environment. They can accumulate in landfills or find their way into the ocean, where they become part of the food chain through the force of currents.

The environmental concerns surrounding traditional 3D print materials have led researchers to explore new possibilities for biodegradable materials. The goal is to develop printing materials that will naturally break down into harmless substances after disposal. While several materials have been under investigation, a recent research paper presented at the fall meeting of the American Chemical Society has introduced a particularly fascinating solution – insects.

The research paper outlines how functional bioplastics can be created using chitin extracted from dead black soldier flies. These flies are commonly utilized in larva farming for animal feed and waste management. As a result, a significant number of dead fly bodies are generated. By efficiently extracting chitin from these fly carcasses, researchers were able to purify it into a polymer known as “chitosan.” This chitosan can then be molded into various plastic products, including a highly absorbent hydrogel.

While hydrogel may not be the most suitable material for 3D printing, the same research team is working on utilizing chitosan to produce more functional bioplastics. These bioplastics could potentially resemble popular 3D print materials such as polycarbonate and polyurethane, which are used for casting.

It is important to note that this research is still in its early stages, and practical applications for these bioplastics in desktop 3D printers are yet to be discovered. Nonetheless, it offers hope that future developments will result in materials that are both environmentally friendly and suitable for 3D printing. If successful, this research could put an end to concerns about the proliferation of plastic waste generated by these machines.

The future of 3D printing holds immense potential, but it is crucial that we address the ecological impact of this innovative technology. By exploring alternative materials like chitosan, we are taking a step toward a more sustainable future for 3D printing. Let’s hope that the buzz surrounding insects in this field leads to groundbreaking discoveries and a cleaner, greener approach to 3D printing.

Via Newswise

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