Super Paper 3D Printing?

New Scientist reports on a very intriguing development involving plain paper. Researchers at the Swedish Royal Instititue of Technology have produced a very strong paper product by leveraging nanofibres that naturally occur in cellulose – a material available virtually everywhere.

Conventional paper production involves destruction of these nanofibres, but the Swedish research crew developed a method using enzymes to break down cellulose yet maintain the nanofibres. Then something interesting happened:

The end result is undamaged cellulose fibres suspended in water. When the water is drained away Berglund found that the fibres join together into networks held by hydrogen bonds, forming flat sheets of “nanopaper”.

Apparently the hydrogen bonds are extremely strong:

Mechanical testing shows it has a tensile strength of 214 megapascals, making it stronger than cast iron (130 MPa) and almost as strong as structural steel (250 MPa).Normal paper has a tensile strength less than 1 MPa. The tests used strips 40 millimetres long by 5mm wide and about 50 micrometres thick.

So what does this have to do with 3D printing?

Previously we’ve seen 3D printing on paper, but we’re not sure that approach would work with paper stronger than cast iron; you’d need something much more powerful than scissors to shape layers of super-paper.

Instead we contemplate a variation of additive printing, where the material is cellulose nanofibres. Suspended in liquid, they could be deposited in an additive manner, where heat and/or air can dry the deposition and fuse onto lower layers. What would be the result? Maybe you will be able to print a cast iron frying pan.

Via New Scientist

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