A Canadian bioplastic company, Advanced BioCarbon 3D (ABC3D), has developed wood-based bioplastic materials for use in 3D printing.
Founded in 2016, ABC3D was listed among the top five hundred deep tech start-ups around the world by Hello Tomorrow, a French tech accelerator. The mission of ABC3D is to develop sustainable carbon-free plastics for 3D printing to alleviate the deteriorating environmental situation.
ABC3D’s environmental scientist, Kim Klassen, explained, “If we have extreme weather events happening all the time, it’s going to interrupt every part of society. So, climate change, above all other environmental concerns, is important and that is what this company addresses through product development, through sustainable bioplastics made from renewable resources.”
“Our products are carbon negative, so that’s not just reducing the impact on climate change, we’re actually helping to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.”
Though bioplastics are available in the industry, ABC3D’s ultimate goal is to make environmentally sustainable bioplastics for engineering application. The company boasts that their product is superior to other bioplastics made from renewable resources and is non-flammable and moisture resistant.
Darrel Fry, CEO of ABC3D, said, “People often think of bioplastics as single-use with low-value functionality, but our products are incredibly high-functioning with exceptionally high heat resistance while being lightweight … As an example, our goal is to be able to 3D print something like a piston for your car from this material – there’s such high heat resistance, and it’s also very strong.”
ABC3D’s bioplastic filament is made from waste wood, therefore, the company is not in competition with the forestry companies. In fact, the wood that is used by ABC3D comes from poplar (or cottonwood) trees which are cut down during wood collection by forestry companies. And since there is no market for poplar trees they are left in the forest.
The 3D printing filaments made by ABC3D are a mixture of 60% plastic and 40% wood blended using ABC3D’s proprietary method in which resin is extracted from the waste wood. And the leftover wood is turned into a polymer. The resin is then added back to the plastic and this gives the material its heat resistant and moisture resistant properties.
Klassen explained the process, “The process uses green chemistry and starts with wood chips from the forest industry that are mixed with a solvent and put through a series of pressurized heating and cooling phases to extract the resin from the wood chips. All solvent from the manufacturing process is put back into the system to be reused again.”
The biomaterial was developed with the help of a $300,000 joint grant awarded to ABC3D and Selkirk College by a government-backed innovation cluster, Innovate BC.
ABC3D’s materials are currently being tested at the Metallurgical Industrial Development Acceleration and Studies (MIDAS) fab lab in Trail.
ABC3D is currently scaling production to begin sales in the first quarter of 2019. Fry said, “We are targeting to have our sales in 3D filaments start in the first quarter of 2019 and then roll out a number of different filaments with additional characteristics such as carbon fiber reinforced filament, conductive filament and filaments that are reinforced with other wood fibers, beyond our first products, which are a blended traditional printing filament.”
“Our company is proving that from wood we can make sustainable, economical, high performance plastics.”
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Featured image shows samples of wood used to make ABC3D’s filament. Image via MIDAS Fab Lab/Tracy Connery