Italian designer develops new 3D printing filament 'Agridust' made from food waste
We have been eagerly anticipating all the interesting food 3D printing innovations that 2015 could bring us for a while now, as numerous 3D food printers are scheduled for release. While we have been looking at interesting filaments such as chocolate, dough, and jam, Italian designer Marina Ceccolini has been focussing on the other end of the food spectrum: food waste.
Marina’s AgriDust – as she calls the filament she has designed – is an environmentally friendly building (rather than eating) filament that could become a very useful alternative for those mountains of plastic we collectively consume.
Fortunately, AgriDust doesn’t revolve around a bunch of rotting fruit and vegetables being pushed into an extruder. Instead, Marina become inspired by the shape and strength of a dried tangerine peel. Smelling the ingredient for 3D printing success, she did a couple of tests with a few types of waste food often found in local landfills: coffee grounds, peanut shells, bean pods, tomato skins and peels from lemons and oranges. All are resilient, durable, and don't start rotting so easily. In a way, they could be seen as nature’s building filaments.
Mixed with potato starch in a 64.5% waste/35.5% starch combination, these very common waste products proved to be very 3D printable materials. According to Marina, these type of filaments could be perfect alternatives to use in prototyping and other 3D printing projects that don’t result in final products. ‘These technologies are mainly used to create the first prototypes and objects that serve only for a first phase of the study,’ she explains. ‘I don't want to eliminate the use of plastic, because in some sectors that is unthinkable, but in the case of disposable products, you might start to think and act differently.’
While thus not intending to create an absolute alternative for ABS and other plastic filaments, a recyclable prototyping filament that gives common food waste a second life could be very useful. Ideally, products made with this filament should be thrown on a compost heap afterwards. ‘The waste recovered in this way will return in the form of biological nutrient to the earth [through recycling], but before that, it can carry out other functions such as pots for plants and packaging going to decrease the use of plastic and cost required for landfilling,’ Marina argues.
For now, however, this interesting approach to 3D printed recycling will remain largely theoretically. Having developed these food waste filaments as a student project, Marina hopes to further pursue its potential in the future. ‘The idea is to take it forward with an expert in this sector,’ she says. Let’s hope AgriDust can hit the shelves as soon as possible.