The Quest for Rare Wood is Endangering Forests. Now We Can Just 3D-Print Replicas Made from Wood Waste Instead
While pangolin scales, shark fins, elephant ivory and rhino horn are famous for their black market value, the most illegally trafficked of all is rosewood, which generates more dollars than the four. together.
Famous for the quality of furniture and instruments, the advent of 3D printers has given a team of designers from San José State University the idea of saving tree species by 3D printing rosewood using pieces of wood.
His startup, Forust, can 3D print a wood grain that mimics the properties of any type of prized wood, be it ash, pine, or rosewood, which is considered vulnerable to extinction due to the harvest for the Chinese luxury furniture trade, a company with a global value of $ 95 billion.
Trees, as beautiful and complex as they are, are essentially made of two products, explains Ric Fulop, CEO of Desktop Metal, the parent company of Forust. Cellulose and lignin give the wood its grain, the strands of material that run vertically through the trunk. Fulop explains that all the 3D printer does is rebuild what furniture manufacturers work to deconstruct, injecting a non-toxic binder with lignin into layers of sawdust.
Once finished, the resulting faux wood can be sanded and refinished just like regular wood. The Chinese market tends to value furniture with traditional designs which, when combined with the deep red of rosewood, a lucky color in China, actually create impressive furniture.
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Talking with Fast company, Forust says they can map incredibly complex geometric shapes and patterns onto furniture, which they can print with grain into their finished form – work that would normally take a craftsman weeks to complete by hand.
In the US, lignin and sawdust from the lumber industry are produced as waste to the tune of millions of tons per year, which could be recycled through 3D printing into simulated luxury hardwoods. This fact changes the whole landscape of the furniture industry, since once the material wears out, it can be crushed and reused as a 3D printing fuel.
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For circular marksmanship companies like IKEA, it might be the greatest invention since particle board, and for rosewood forests around the world, it might be the greatest invention since the ax.
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