The newest development in 3D printing will allow you to create wood without cutting down a single tree. This innovative breakthrough can be used to bio-print wooden pieces of any shape and size. If you haven't already heard about this exciting new technology, then let us fill you in!
Deforestation On The Rise
Deforestation is the purposeful clearing of forested land. Throughout history and into modern times, forests have been razed to make space for agriculture and to obtain wood for fuel, manufacturing, and construction. This has greatly altered landscapes around the world.
The loss of trees and other vegetation can cause desertification, soil erosion, fewer crops, flooding, and a host of problems for Indigenous people. A global forest survey reveals that since the beginning of human civilization, we have already wiped out 54 percent of the total tree population on Earth!
Yet, trees are still cut in large numbers on a daily basis for making products like paper, wax, medicines, rubber, and furniture. Some of which are so essential to our lifestyles that we couldn’t imagine living without them.
How Is 3D Printed Lab Grown Wood Made?
Does this mean that we’ll have to keep cutting trees? Possibly not! Now, a groundbreaking innovation in the 3D printing industry can lab-grow endless timber, without cutting down a single tree. This technology was published in the journal ‘Materials Today’, which explains that deforestation is no longer needed to produce timber — wow!
The scientists created customisable wood from the cells of a flowering plant known as Zinnia elegans. Their approach allowed them to bio-print wooden pieces of any shape and size. Meaning that if you need a wooden table, you can directly produce a wooden table from the cells, which eliminates wastage! They achieved this by first treating the flowering plant cells with a liquid medium and a gel solution, containing hormones and nutrients.
This Is Only The Beginning!
By changing the concentration of these hormones, the scientists could control the stiffness, strength, density, and various other physical and mechanical properties of the lab-grown plant matter… how cool is that?
The authors wrote in their paper, “(Our) recent work proposed a novel approach to generate 3D-printed, tunable plant materials from cell cultures with the potential to reduce waste, increase yields and production rates, and reduce environmental disruption as cultures are generated from a non-sacrificial plant sample rather than whole plants.”
Lead author Ashley Beckwith and her team, are now planning to 3D print timber in a lab from cells of trees like pine. Once this is achieved, deforestation could become a thing of the past.
This land-free strategy is scalable and cost effective, as plants are easier to grow in this way. While the scientists have not yet grown a wooden table from a petri dish, their work, if widley adopted, could lead to huge reductions in the harmful effects of deforestation. It will also help reduce waste products from trees that are shaved to shape into different furniture types.
What are your thoughts on lab grown, 3D printed wood? Please comment what you think below! For more stories about eco-innovations from around the world, check out our Eco News category and the blogs below.