A new project has succeeded in 3D printing with eggshells.
The “egg tower” project was undertaken by ManufacturaMX on Instagram. This is a group that has long experimented with unusual materials, and this time it’s eggs.
Eggshells are one of the most fragile items in the living world, and it might be strange to consider them a proper building material.
The material was made from collecting eggshell waste from three Mexico City restaurants. If you don’t know, Mexico is one of the world’s largest consumers and producers of eggs. Evidently one out of every 27 eggs in the world is Mexican!
They don’t explain exactly how they’ve prepared the material, but do say that it was made in a sustainable manner:
“Each brick is made in a 100% sustainable and circular way, the raw material was obtained through recolection and donation of waste from 3 restaurants in Mexico City.”
It’s likely they’ve mixed crushed eggshells with a sustainable biopolymer or clay to create a material that’s suitable for extrusion. They call it a “bioceramic”.
That extrusion was made using a KUKA KR-150 robotic arm, to which was attached an extrusion printhead.
They developed a design of differently-sized pieces using CAD to create 26 unique plates that could be stacked together to form the egg tower. The design changes shape parametrically throughout its upward climb.
Note that the pieces were printed separately, rather than printing the entire structure at once. This suggests that the bioceramic material is similar to clay in that it doesn’t have a lot of strength until it hardens.
You will also observe that the individual piece prints don’t have any overhangs, and are rather simple 2D extrusion designs. This also hints at the limitations of the bioceramic material.
Why do this project? They explain:
“This project was achieved thanks to the mix of computer design and the opportunities digital manufacturing gives you to transform our waste and raise awareness, questioning our manufacturing methods and creating centuries of circular lives.”
While it’s not likely we will all be printing with eggshells in the future, they do have a point: there is a great deal of waste material that could relatively easily be made into extrudable paste that can be used for construction.
Think about it: there is a lot of waste, and there is a lot of construction. Concepts like this may ultimately lead to a bridge between waste source and construction consumption.
Even more important could be the effect on the climate emergency: current methods for producing cement are among the world’s largest CO2 polluters. Anything to shift to new methods could be quite desirable.