Biological 3D Printing

Biological 3D Printing

When 3D Printing became more mainstream around 10 years ago it was seen as the future of manufacturing. But in recent years the trend of using 3D printing as a way to produce products seems to have subsided. This is largely due to the growing concern of plastic use due to its known impact on our environment. Therefore, how can we use this amazing production technique in a more environmentally friendly way? 

There are a variety of 3D printing techniques such as SLA and SLS, which sees powdered material being bonded together while in a large tank. These types of printing are actually sustainable in terms of production compared to other manufacturing techniques. Little waste is produced and products can be made bespokely without the need of molds etc. But as the trend of 3D printing took off it saw lots of people purchasing their own 3D printers at home. This led to a large amount of virgin plastic being used to make unnecessary products. 

But by using more ecological materials, and by changing the application of the products created by 3D printing we can used this production method to create better products. 

Arthur Mamou-Mani’s Conifera for COS

At this year’s Milan design week architect Arthur Mamou-Mani created an installation of a  structure made from 700 bioplastic bricks for fashion brand COS. The bricks are each 3D-printed in a mixture of polylactic acid (PLA). PLA is a fully compostable bioplastic that is made using renewable resources. 

The main aim of the project was to show how design can be circular, while showcasing the potential of biomaterials and sustainable processes. It was also important to Mani that the installation be approachable as he wanted to teach people about 3D printing and make it less daunting for those that do not know about it.

The 30-metre-long installation is comprised of three colours of PLA. The translucent bricks are PLA in its purest form, while the brown bricks contain wood pulp.

Each brick took between four and a half to seven hours to print. They have a lattice structure to take full advantage of the strength of the material, but also showcase how 3D printing can limit the amount of material needed to create structures. 

Studio Klarenbeek and Maartje Dros

Designers Eric Klarenbeek and Maartje Dros have created a series of 3D printed vessels made from algae. The algae is cultivated before being dried and processed into a material that can be used to 3D print objects.

Their ultimate goal however is to establish a local network of biopolymer 3D printers, called the 3D Bakery. The hope is that there will be a 3D printing shop on every street corner where you can get your products 3D printed from natural materials, therefore keeping production local.

By creating products from algae not only is virgin plastic being eliminated in production and the waste stream, materials are being used that are non harmful to nature at every aspect. As algae photosynthesises it actually also absorbs carbon dioxide from the environment so its cultivation is also beneficial for the environment. 

Images by :

Arthur Mamou-Mani

Florent Gardin

Studio Klarenbeek & Dros