FPInnovations recently invited a group of experts and participants from the forest industry in Montréal for a one-day workshop on 3D printing as part of the BIOFOR International Conference. After having been used for nearly three decades principally for prototyping, 3D printing—also called “additive manufacturing”—is experiencing a new growth both in the applications enabled by the mass availability of low-cost printers, as well as progress towards actual manufacturing platforms. The Canadian forest industry should position itself to take advantage of the new opportunities that are being created by the 3D printing technologies.
The incorporation of wood-based materials in the form of wood flour or other biomaterials into plastic filaments is already at a commercial stage. However, there is larger potential in the mid- to longer term for technologies that would enable to use wood-based materials as the major component in the final objects and structures, for example in customized wood structures such as furniture, decoration, building components, etc. That is what led FPInnovations to gather international experts, in an attempt to examine the current global situation and to position the Canadian sector.
Participants to the workshop heard invited speakers from different countries present some of their current work on 3D printing that range from large structures made from granular “jammable” materials to medical applications based on bio-based pastes and hydrogels. The webinar was also a unique opportunity to see keynote speaker Skylar Tibbits, co-director of MIT’s self-assembly laboratory, share his vision of 4D printing, where the 3D printed objects can reshape themselves or self-assemble over time. Although all countries are not at the same development stage, they all see it worthwhile to investment development.
Additive manufacturing development requires interdisciplinary inputs, so increased collaboration across different organizations and fields of expertise could speed up the development and market adoption. One example is the importance for the Canadian forest industry to collaborate with industrial designers and architects to incorporate wood-based materials into everyday objects and buildings. The workshop was part of FPInnovations’ strategy to promote and grow new collaborations. The quality of the event was recognized and greatly appreciated by all participants and speakers. Building on the interest generated, VTT has accepted to organize a second edition of the workshop, to be held during PulPaper 2018, in Helsinki, Finland.
For more information, please contact Lyne Cormier, Research Leader, ISO, Performance of Surfaces and Optics (IPSO) group.