Is homemade bioplastic viable fodder for 3D printers?

3D Printing & Imaging
Is homemade bioplastic viable fodder for 3D printers?

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?

10 thoughts on “Is homemade bioplastic viable fodder for 3D printers?

  1. salec says:

    How about coming up with a way to mill, extrude and reuse ABS plastic instead?

    I agree that recyclable and biodegradable materials are preferable if we are to manufacture and convey our products, but if 3D printer is to become an appliance (to upgrade our gadgets instead of throwing them away and making or buying ourselves new ones) then reusing this or that gadget’s old shell (or sunglasses frame or whatever) to make new, better, 2.0 version of it is better then sending old (v 1.9) one out to recycling center and ponying up fresh cash for brand new batch of ABS fodder to print version 2.0.

    1. says:

      I remember seeing an instructable once where a guy had built a new case for something from old ABS by grinding it down and dissolving it in acetone. Surely thats a fairly automatable process?

  2. allenkll says:

    Yea… Just throw in a dash of Boron… Boron fixes everything.

  3. Nate says:

    Nobody doesn’t like Molton Boron!

    1. dsloan48 says:

      Molton is okay, but Herbbie Schwartz is a boron ion

  4. Nightstar says:

    Saw the bio-plastic DIY last week. Was wondering about this.

    Also saw the video from another group beside Maker bot thinking on a “recycle” system of a grinder into pellets or something then extruding it. Think they said milk bottle plastic as the raw source for this.

    Was think of something like a mix and heat at the extrude. Else would need an automatic mixer to get the mix right. Just guessing here.

  5. noise_is_life says:

    How does this stuff compare to whatever they are using in the recent RepRap Mendel video? I was assuming the were similar, but perhaps not.

  6. rahere says:

    Anything along the lines of the Galalith/Erinoid precursor of Baekelite? That was a casein/formaldehyde mix, baekelite phenol with formaldehyde. Vinegar has a similar effect, perhaps some blend can produce something workable.

  7. mattd says:

    That sheet in the photo was about a millimeter think but shrank down from a gel of about 5 millimeters over 2 days. I’m going to keep playing with it though.

  8. Rob Kluge says:

    Big problem with the casein plastic is the process that it is made. If you use the supermarket materials (milk, vinegar, and starches ) that type of plastic is used in food. The type of plastic that might work with printers requires a stronger acid (hydrochloric ) and a purification process that I haven’t really found online. Companies do still keep it a trade secret. Also It Takes 100 KG of curds to make 3 KG of casein. Haven’t tried it myself, just posting what I discovered.

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

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