Researchers at the University of Toronto in Canada have created a new light-curing resin dedicated to photopolymer 3D printers based on used cooking oil obtained from McDonald’s restaurants. The innovative material is biodegradable and if it ever commercializes, it can be a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to resins commonly used in 3D printing.
As we have mentioned many times, one of the hottest topics of recent months in the 3D printing industry is the theme of ecology and biodegradability of prinitng materials. For example, more and more people are realizing that the famous “PLA biodegradability” is a very complex matter – as a rule, this polymer is biodegradable in the natural environment, but it does take place over a very long period of time and under certain conditions. What’s more – depending on what a given filament producer mixes pure granules in the production process (type of dye and other chemical compounds improving e.g. flow of the filament through the nozzle, or the strength and resistance of the material after printing), it may turn out that the PLA finally obtained is no more biodegradable.
The above issues apply to thermoplastic materials – what about light-cured resins, whose remains cannot be disposed of in a traditional way (sink to the sewage system or thrown away to publicly available trashcans)? The solution may be the innovative project of Andre Simpson – a professor at the University of Toronto, the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences.
When Simpson bought his first photopolymer 3D printer a few years ago, he discovered that many of the molecules in commercial resins are similar to those used in cooking oils. After contacting a number of fast food chains, he partnered with McDonald’s, who supplied him with used cooking oil from one of his restaurants in Scarborough, Ontario.
Simpson’s team transformed used oil into resin during a one-step chemical process – 420 ml of resin was obtained from one liter of oil. Then the shown above butterfly was printed from the resin obtained. The resulting detail was created with a 0.1 mm layer and proved to be structurally and thermally stable after exposure to high temperatures. The material can also be cured in the sun, which creates additional application possibilities. In terms of biodegradability, scientists found that two weeks after burying the printout of the sample in the soil, it had already lost 20% of its mass.
The discovery is extremely exciting, because it allows you to solve a whole bunch of problems – including the issue of utilizing used fry in restaurants of the largest fast-food chains. The price of the process is also exciting – according to scientists from Toronto, oil-based resin can be produced at a price of USD 300 per ton. Everyday people using 3D printers based on photopolymer technologies know that this amount can be successfully allocated to 1 liter of better or (medium) specialized resin.