Hemp and 3D printing make for a greener and more versatile future. The recent popularity of 3D printing is significant. It functions via an additive process whereby successive layers of material are printed until the desired object is created. It is known to be environmentally friendly as it uses far less material than typical manufacturing processes. The entire process begins with a 3D model which can be downloaded or created using a 3D scanner, 3D modeling software, code, an app, or a haptic device.
Modeling software is the more popular choice as you can get open-source software for free or pay for a license to get industrial-grade software. Once the 3D model is created, the file is prepared for the printer – a process known as ‘slicing’. Slicing involves dividing the 3D model into hundreds, or thousands, of horizontal layers. You can buy special slicing software or most high-level printers already have them built-in. Once the file is sent to the 3D printer, the sliced model will print into 3D form layer by layer.
The 3D printing industry is expected to grow to $15 billion per year by 2020 and up to $35 billion by 2024. There are a variety of applications including prosthetics, eyewear, furniture, reconstructing evidence, replicating ancient artifacts as well as automotive parts. It is believed to be the future of construction; however, currently the most commonly used material is plastic. We are now starting to see more eco-friendly materials such as coffee, beer, and hemp being used. Hemp as an alternative filament can print using plastic standards and settings.
3D Fuel was one of the first companies to use hemp-based 3D printing filament. There are no dyes and so all products have a natural color. It also has a significant amount of visible bio-fill which you don’t get with plastic. The hemp’s particle size has been increased to be used in a greater variety of printers. Hemp is making a comeback and is now legal to grow in the US as there is little to no THC content. 3D printing combined with hemp is capable of reducing the manufacturing industry’s environmental impact. It will help to reduce waste, speed up the manufacturing process, and use less energy.
There are still errors to work out with 3D printing, but using hemp allows you to recycle any errors made to make a new product. Making hemp filament isn’t a difficult process and hemp is a durable and fast-growing crop. 3D construction is also a huge, up and coming industry. There are companies already working on using hemp for construction. Mirreco has developed carbon-neutral hemp panels that are being 3D printed into walls, roofs, and floors. Hemp-based biocomposite materials are stronger and more reliable than synthetic materials currently used in the construction industry.
In 2018, Mirreco announced its concept of a sustainable hemp home designed by Arcforms. The walls, roof, and floors were going to be made using hemp biomass. The windows would allow light to pass through the glass and convert into electricity. The company wants to manufacture, sell, own, and operate a large number of mobile machines to process hemp onsite. The potential uses of hemp are continuously expanding and now that it is able to be used to create filament used in 3D printing, the options are limitless. It is significantly more environmentally friendly while still being durable and versatile.