In the face of global warming, finding solutions to design parts that respect the environment has become a problem at the heart of many industries. That is why many scholars are working on this topic. Recently, researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU Singapore) developed a new way to use recycled glass as a 3D printing material, a solution to boosting the circular economy. With this innovation, the research team NTU Singapore wants to 3D print everyday objects and, above all, transform production processes.
If scientists chose glass, it’s no accident. It is possible to recycle it 100%, without changing the quality of the material. With recycled glass, the team aims to replace sand in 3D printing processes, a material that is increasingly in short supply nowadays, causing severe pollution. With their solution, they were able to 3D print an L-shaped bench using a mixture of concrete and glass. The study’s lead author, Professor Tan Ming Jin from the NTU School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE), explains: The main challenge in crafting 3D-printable concrete mixes is deciding how much of each component should be added to achieve a strong structure with minimal defects. Our team has come up with a viable formula, showing for the first time that glass can indeed be used for 3D printing of a seat with excellent structural integrity.“
An alternative to traditional materials
The goal of this project is to replace the use of sand with recycled glass. And by using the 3D-printed seat, they showed it was possible to replace all the sand. In order to use a minimum amount of materials, the researchers conducted a series of tests aimed at determining the optimal parameters of the concrete mixture based on recycled glass for the printing process. Additionally, the team explained that because glass is a hydrophobic material, very little water was used to design the concrete.
For the seat design, a 4-axis 3D printer, its printing size is 1.2m x 1.2m x 1m. If only a piece of furniture is printed at the moment, then scientists hope in the future to democratize this process in the construction sector. To do so, the NTU research team has partnered with Singaporean startup Soda Lemon to 3D print larger structures and further improve the printing process.
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Cover photo credits: NTU Singapore