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LZH investigates components made of natural fibers

28 Jul 2022

To enhance sustainability in 3D laser printing for architectural components and more.

3D printing has been in use in architecture for a while, and now it is to become ecologically sustainable as well: Together with partners, laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH) is researching how to produce individual building elements from natural fibers using laser additive manufacturing.

In the project 3DNaturDruck, at the University of Stuttgart, architectural components such as facade elements will be created from natural fiber-reinforced biopolymers in a laser AM 3D printing process.

To this end, the scientists will develop the corresponding composite materials from biopolymers with both natural short fibers and natural continuous fibers and optimize them for processing with the additive manufacturing process Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM).

The partners’ goal is to enable highly developed components made from sustainable materials. Within the project, different natural fiber-reinforced biopolymer composites will be investigated.

The team is researching both processing methods with very short natural fibers, such as from wood and straw, and a method for printing continuous fibers from hemp and flax in combination with biopolymers.

Demo pavilion planned

The LZH then develops processes for these new materials and adapts the tools and nozzle geometries of the FDM printer. A pavilion with the 3D-printed facade elements is planned as a demonstrator on the campus of the University of Stuttgart.

The project partners want to explore how additive manufacturing can be used to simplify manufacturing processes for architectural components. They say that natural fiber-reinforced biopolymers “are particularly suitable for producing components with complex geometries in just a few steps and with low material and cost requirements”.

With their research, the partners are also working on completely new starting conditions for the fabrication of newly developed architectural components: For example, the topology optimization of components according to their structural stress can be easily implemented with additive manufacturing.

LZH says that there is great interest in the use of natural fibers in structural components in architecture and construction because natural fibers have several advantages: they have good mechanical properties combined with low weight and are widely available. As a renewable resource with, in some cases, short renewal cycles, they are also clearly a better ecological alternative than synthetic fibers.

In additive manufacturing, large-format elements for the architectural sector have so far mostly been manufactured with polymers based on fossil raw materials. Research in the project 3DNaturDruck should now make the use of natural fibers in architecture possible for additive manufacturing as well.

The 3DNaturDruck project is coordinated by the Department of Biobased Materials and Materials Cycles in Architecture (BioMat) at the Institute of Building Structures and Structural Design (ITKE) at the University of Stuttgart.

Besides LZH, project partners include the Fraunhofer Institute for Wood Research Wilhelm-Klauditz-Institut (WKI) and the industrial companies Rapid Prototyping Technologie (Gifhorn), ETS Extrusionstechnik (Mücheln), 3dk.berlin (Berlin) and ATMAT (Krakow, Poland).

The project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture through the Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V.

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