Instead of discarding used coffee grounds, utilize them for 3D printing purposes.

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A Novel Use for Coffee Grounds: Sustainable 3D Printing

If you’re a coffee lover, you’re probably used to disposing of your used grounds in the trash or using them for composting. But what if there was a way to give those coffee grounds a new life? A recent paper published in DIS ’23: Proceedings of the 2023 ACM Designing Interactive Systems Conference suggests that coffee grounds could be used as a sustainable material for 3D printing.

Michael Rivera, a co-author of the paper and a specialist in digital fabrication and human-computer interactions at the University of Colorado, Boulder, believes that coffee grounds have a lot of potential as a 3D printing material. “You can make a lot of things with coffee grounds,” says Rivera. “And when you don’t want it anymore, you can throw it back into a coffee grinder and use the grounds to print again. Our vision is that you could just pick up a few things at a supermarket and online and get going.”

This idea of using coffee grounds for 3D printing is particularly important considering the environmental concerns surrounding the widespread use of traditional printing materials like polylactic acid (PLA). Not only does PLA waste take a long time to decompose in landfills, but the recycling process is also energy-intensive and can’t be done at home by the average user.

Rivera’s solution to these sustainability concerns is to use coffee grounds as a bio-based, biodegradable, and compostable alternative to thermoplastics. By adding coffee grounds to the 3D printing process, waste can be minimized, and the need for energy-intensive recycling processes can be reduced.

So how does it work? Rivera began experimenting with coffee grounds as a printing medium while he was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University. He was inspired by a local cafe in Pittsburgh that used to compost their used grounds but had to start throwing them out during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rivera saw an opportunity to repurpose these grounds for 3D printing.

He partnered with Arriviste Coffee Roasters, a local cafe that supplied him with spent coffee grounds. The grounds were then dried in the sun over the course of two days to reduce energy consumption. After removing any large clumps, the dried grounds were mixed with binders, stabilizers, and thickeners, creating a paste-like mixture. This mixture was then loaded into syringes and used in a modified consumer-grade 3D printer. The entire printing process requires no heat.

The end result? Strong and durable 3D-printed objects made from coffee grounds. Not only is this a more sustainable way to 3D print, but it also creates an opportunity to reduce waste and promote the use of bio-based materials.

While coffee grounds may not be the only solution to the sustainability issues surrounding 3D printing, it certainly presents an intriguing and novel alternative. By repurposing coffee waste for 3D printing, we can reduce our reliance on traditional materials and move towards a more environmentally friendly future.

So, the next time you enjoy your morning cup of coffee, remember that those grounds can be more than just waste. They could be the key to a sustainable and innovative 3D printing revolution.

Revolutionary Innovations with Coffee Grounds: From Planters to User Interfaces

In recent years, researchers have been exploring unconventional materials to create sustainable and eco-friendly products. One such material that has shown immense potential is coffee grounds. Yes, you heard it right – those leftover coffee grounds that usually end up in the trash can now be transformed into something extraordinary.

Meet Dr. Rivera and his team, a group of visionary scientists who have unlocked the hidden potential of coffee grounds. They have discovered that by mixing coffee grounds with an adhesive, they can create a sturdy and biodegradable material resembling unreinforced concrete. This breakthrough has opened up a world of possibilities for sustainable manufacturing.

Among their remarkable creations are small planters made from this coffee ground material. These planters serve as perfect homes for seedlings, allowing them to grow until they are ready to be transferred to a garden. The best part? The planters themselves are biodegradable, so they can be planted directly into the soil without any harm to the environment.

But that’s not all – Dr. Rivera and his team have not stopped at planters. They have also used this material to craft decorative pendants and espresso cups, adding an artistic touch to their innovative creations. Imagine sipping your morning coffee from a cup made entirely from recycled coffee grounds!

Furthermore, they have taken their creativity to new heights by developing 3D-printed prototype user interfaces. These interfaces have the unique ability to change shape as they dry, thanks to the shrinkage of the coffee ground material. For example, a single-layer square can morph into a saddle shape, and a rectangular rod can bend upwards during the drying process.

But how can a material made from coffee grounds be used for touch sensors, you may wonder? Dr. Rivera and his team have found a solution. Although the coffee ground material is not conductive on its own, it can be combined with activated charcoal powder derived from coconut shells. This mixture can be used as a surface coating or directly mixed into the coffee ground material itself. The result? Biodegradable capacitive touch sensors that are not only environmentally friendly but also functional.

To test the feasibility of these prototype sensors, the team 3D-printed them in different shapes – a hollow cube and a triangle. Connecting the prototypes to a resistor and microcontroller using a wire, they were able to sense basic interactions such as proximity and touch gestures. This opens up exciting possibilities for integrating sustainable touch interfaces into various devices.

The research conducted by Dr. Rivera and his team showcases the importance of thinking outside the box when it comes to material innovation. By harnessing the potential of coffee grounds, they have created a sustainable alternative that can be utilized in various industries, from gardening to manufacturing.

As we move towards a more sustainable future, it is crucial to explore unconventional materials and uncover their hidden potential. The story of coffee grounds transforming into planters, decorative items, and functional touch sensors serves as a testament to the power of innovation and the limitless possibilities that lie within seemingly ordinary objects.

(DOI: DIS’23 Proceedings, 2023. 10.1145/3563657.3595983 (About DOIs))

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