The Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine (ASCC) took a novel and sustainable approach in 3D printing houses.
ASCC prints homes from wood waste instead of concrete.
The research and development center has its hands in diverse projects — from floating wind turbines to rebars — all with the goal of creating a sustainable future.
We’re not here today to discuss all the side quests of ASCC.
Instead, I visited the college’s campus on a cloudy afternoon in April to see its newest project: the BioHome3D.
ASCC revealed this project in November 2020 as the world’s first 3D-printed tiny house made from “biobased” materials.
The center created the durable printing material by encapsulating wood residues from sawmills.
ASCC collaborates with a variety of industrial partners who specialize in pallet manufacturing throughout the US.
We’re all familiar with sawdust. If sawdust is further ground, it turns into cellulose nanofibers.
Combining nanofibers with a binder made of plastic can create a small collection of pellets.
The pellets are then injected into the ASCC 3D printer. According to the university, this is the largest polymer 3D Printer in the world.
Source: University of Maine
This printer essentially functions as a “glue gun with hundreds of settings,” Habib Dagher, the founding executive director of the center and principal investigator of this project, told me when I visited …
… turning the pellets into a printing material that acts like the “ink” of the printer.
Dagher would like to be able to produce the pellets and source the wood locally one day.
Maine’s wood waste is enough to build 100,000 homes per year, he believes.