3D printing is opening up a new frontier of home-based manufacturing, however most 3d printed designs are made from unsustainable plastic. Enter Growduce, a company proposing a safe, recyclable, and sustainable alternative to today's plastics. What is this alternative, you ask? An organic polymer compound formed from cellulose, of course! Biologist Aakriti Jain and industrial designer Guillian Graves argue that it just may be the leading substitute for ubiquitous plastic.
The developers envision their machines as, one day, being part of “mini-factories” which can mass produce needed products for today’s consumers. The Growduce machine holds a SCOBY which feeds on compost material as the cellulose grows and is moulded into desired shapes. The word SCOBY may sound familiar to kombucha drinkers; it is a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. Color can be added naturally, via substances such as aloe vera or mint, eliminating the need for nasty, numbered dyes.
Jain and Graves aspire to have mould designs open-sourced, which will encourage connection in creative communities, yet they also have design plans of their own. By the end of the year, they hope to have ready the first cellulose bandages for minor wounds. After that, they intend to move on to clothing and accessories.
Yet, the most alluring possibility for this method of production is the greater scale promise of eventually replacing harmful plastics used to package goods. “From layers of plastic packaging, immense transportation costs of the various chemicals and materials that go into creating ordinary products, then transporting the products from the producer to the supplier and finally to your home, the energy consumed by the production machines, the waste production and disposal processes, and more all sum to an enormous hidden environmental cost,” they explain. With the vision of a Growduce machine in every kitchen, whose operation is hoped to be as easy-to-use as a coffee machine, this technology has limitless potential.
The opportunities for sustainable alternatives to today’s plastics are vast and the Growduce designers intend on leading the charge. What would you create with the power of bacteria?
Images via Growduce