In the face of global warming, finding solutions to design environmentally friendly parts is now a problem at the heart of many industries. That is why many scientists are working on this topic. Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU Singapore) recently developed a new method of using recycled glass as a 3D printing material, a solution they hope will help promote a circular economy. Through this innovation, the NTU Singapore research team hopes to 3D print everyday objects and, above all, transform production processes.
For this project, the research chose glass as it can be 100% recycled without altering the quality of the material. With recycled glass, the team intends to replace sand in 3D printing processes, a material that is increasingly scarce, since its extraction causes great pollution. With their solution, they managed to 3D print an L-shaped bench using a mix of concrete and glass. The principal investigator of the study, Professor Tan Ming Jen from the NTU School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE), explains: “The main challenge in formulating 3D printable concrete mixes is determining how much of each component to add to obtain a structurally sound structure with minimal defects. Our team has come up with a feasible formula, demonstrating for the first time that glass can be used to 3D print a bench with excellent structural integrity.”
An alternative to traditional materials
The objective of this project is to replace the use of sand with recycled glass. And with this 3D printed bench, they have shown that it is possible to completely replace sand. In order to use a minimum of material, the researchers conducted a series of tests to determine the optimal parameters of the recycled glass concrete mix for the printing process. Furthermore, the team explains that because glass is a hydrophobic material, very little water was used to design the concrete.
For the design of the bench, a 4-axis 3D printer was used, with a printing volume of 1.2 mx 1.2 mx 1 m. Although only one piece of furniture has been printed so far, the scientists hope to democratize this process in the construction sector in the future. And to do so, the NTU research team partnered with Singapore startup Soda Lemon to 3D print larger structures and continue to optimize the printing process. You can find more here.
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*Cover photo credits: NTU Singapore