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We recently posted a video showing how to make “bioplastic” — an easily manageable substance made with vinegar, glycerine, starch, and water. Even better, it’s biodegradable.

This recipe has created a modest amount of buzz. MAKE reader Matt Daughtrey has been playing around with the stuff and Joris of the Shapeways Blog recently posted a how-to.

The big question is, can this be a DIY source of plastic for 3D printers? With ABS plastic sold at the MakerBot store for fifty bucks a reel, the prospect of creating your own has got to tempt home fabbers. According to Joris, the bioplastic made with this technique doesn’t look too promising:

I didn’t attempt put it in a 3D printer. I used extrusion nozzles, old dish washing bottles and tubes to simulate 3D printing. At this point I would not be comfortable in putting it through a 3D printer because of the variability in consistency and viscosity. I do think that someone much more precise and diligent than I could come up with a material that might work. Currently however the material is apt to gunk up any tubing. Even if you’re super careful it also gunks up. With a dish washing bottle as a stand in for an extruder nozzle I repeatedly tried to lay down layers. Variability in density made this difficult at times. At other times when I had opted for a much more fluid mixture using more gylcerine and water it was able to produce fine lines and fill in a base layer. The long drying times of 24 hours though make a layer by layer approach impractical to say the least. Even when this was attempted the warping of the drying process messed up any “filling in” or lines that were built.

What do you think, readers? Any chemistry nerds out there who could suggest a recipe allowing DIYers to create their own MakerBot ammo?

John Baichtal

My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net


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