Article Highlight | 13-May-2024

Sustainable biocomposites pave the way for eco-friendly 3D printing innovations

Norwegian research unveils enhanced PLA-based biocomposites for superior 3D printability and mechanical performance

Journal of Bioresources and Bioproducts

The push for sustainability in the 3D printing industry has led to the exploration of bio-based materials as alternatives to conventional, fossil-fuel derived polymers. PLA, a popular bioplastic derived from renewable resources, is known for its good mechanical properties and optical transparency but is also recognized for its brittleness and low thermal stability. The current research aimed to enhance these characteristics by incorporating PHA and kraft pulp fibers into the PLA matrix.

The study involved the preparation of biocomposites with varying ratios of PLA, PHA, and kraft pulp fibers (both bleached and unbleached). The effects on mechanical and thermal properties were assessed, with a focus on the suitability of these materials for 3D printing filaments. The results showed that the addition of 30% kraft fibers to PLA significantly increased the tensile modulus, and the inclusion of PHA improved the elongation at break, offering a more flexible and ductile material.

Thermo-gravimetric analysis (TGA) and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) were utilized to evaluate the thermal properties of the biocomposites. The findings indicated that the presence of PHA introduced an additional decomposition temperature, suggesting its role in modifying the thermal behavior of the composites.

Mechanical testing revealed that the biocomposites with PHA exhibited a lower tensile modulus but improved elongation compared to PLA. The study also highlighted that the type of kraft fibers (bleached or unbleached) did not significantly affect the mechanical properties, opening the possibility for more sustainable processes that avoid the bleaching of fibers.

3D printing trials demonstrated that filaments prepared with PLA, PHA, and both types of kraft fibers showed similar printability for complex geometries. This suggests that unbleached fibers could be a viable option for biocomposites, further reducing the environmental impact of the materials.

The research presents a promising direction for the use of biocomposites in the 3D printing industry, addressing the need for materials that offer both enhanced performance and environmental sustainability. The study's findings pave the way for the development of biocomposite filaments that could replace petroleum-based filaments in various applications, including medical, electronics, and packaging.

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Journal of Bioresources and Bioproducts


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