A new 3D printing process developed by The German Institutes of Textile and Fiber Research (DITF) and Arburg GmbH is using nature’s example to create sustainable bio-based fiber composite materials. Wood, plant stalks, mussel shells, and even spider silk are strong composite materials found in nature, and the research partners are using these natural examples in their work. The ” CellLoes-3D-Druck” research project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. 

The new 3D printing processes with continuous fiber reinforcement allows the deposition of fiber strands in accordance with the load, as in nature. The temperature sensitivity of the natural fibers used is addressed by manufacturing the composites in a single operation at ambient temperature.  

To begin, the cellulose fibers strands are stabilized with a binder, allowing for processing in the printer. A specially designed printer head transforms the binder into a matrix creating a stable composite component due to the similarities with the cellulose fibers and excellent mechanical properties. The team from DIFT and Arburg state that the manufacturing process can be used to create other composite materials, especially those with temperature sensitivity and other composites developed from natural or cellulose fibers.

According to the DITF website, “We can take advantage of these principles to design and manufacture bio-based, sustainable fiber-reinforced composites, which are currently in high demand. Bio-based fiber-reinforced composites consist of natural fibers or cellulose fibers embedded in a bio-based matrix. The bio-based components offer properties comparable to those of commonly used glass fiber composites.”