Desktop Metal Develops Additive Process for Sustainable Wood Parts
Forust uses additive manufacturing to upcycle wood byproducts for the production of custom and luxury wood products.
May 7, 2021
Desktop Metal is launching Forust, a new process to sustainably produce functional end-use wood parts using a single-pass binder jetting AM technology. The Forust process upcycles waste byproducts from wood manufacturing (cellulose dust) and the paper industry (lignin) and re-materializes functional wood parts through high-speed 3D printing including digital grain throughout the part.
Desktop Metal’s high-speed 3D printing technology enables architects, designers and manufacturers to produce luxurious custom wood pieces for home decor, interiors, transportation and architectural design with an environmental footprint, new geometries and quality unavailable from subtractive wood manufacturing technology. Starting today, businesses and consumers can visit the Forust website, to order samples and custom wood designs, and manufacturers can engage with Forust to develop wood parts for their end-use products.
According to William McDonough, architect and pioneer of the concepts of Cradle to Cradle, the Circular Economy, and the Circular Carbon Economy, “The Forust technology allows us to take something that was previously wood waste and re-materialize it into exquisitely beautiful and useful things. By allowing millions of trees to remain in place in their forests, Forust is launching a highly evolved technology for the circular technosphere that supports and celebrates stewardship of the natural, regenerative and diverse biosphere, making it not only smart, but wise.
“This is a historic and material opportunity in the history of design and the making of things that reminds me of Arthur C. Clarke’s famous quote, ‘Any technology that is sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic.’ As a lover of wood and forests, I find Forust indistinguishable from magic. The 3D printing of wood using waste natural materials is a gamechanger. We have only begun to explore its beneficial potentials, but it is clear they are immense,” McDonough adds.
Transforming a Subtractive Industry
Forust began with a vision to transform wood byproducts, including sawdust and lignin, into finished wood products, combining design and functionality. Led by industry veteran and ceramics 3D printing pioneer, Andrew Jeffery, who previously served as president of Boston Ceramics, the Forust team brings decades of collective experience in additive manufacturing, materials research, and computer-aided design to solve the challenge of sustainability in finished wood parts.
Jeffery is joined by co-inventors and creative consultants in industrial design, Virginia San Fratello, chair of the Department of Design at San Jose State University, and Ronald Rael, professor and chair of the Department of Architecture at the University of California Berkeley, both of whom are also founding partners of 3D printing company, Emerging Objects.
“The inspiration for Forust was to begin with sawdust and end with forests,” says Jeffery. “Our process is based on extensive research conducted over the past decade in the field of hardwood lumber, leading to complex and elegant finished structures. Through advanced CAD software, proprietary materials and Desktop Metal binder jetting mass production platforms, we can now manufacture beautiful, functional and innovative wood products for a variety of architectural, interior, and home goods applications from upcycled wood byproducts.”
Building a Greener Future
At the core of this innovation is the Forust process, which combines two waste streams from traditional wood production, sawdust and lignin, to sustainably produce isotropic, high-strength wood parts. Depending on the size of the parts, Forust can manufacture wood products using either the Shop System or a custom version of the new RAM 336TM3D printer, which supports prints up to 2 cubic meters in volume at speeds in excess of 100 liters of parts per hour. During the printing process, layers of specially treated sawdust are spread and selectively joined by a non-toxic and biodegradable binder. Digital grain is printed on every layer and parts can then be sanded, stained, polished, dyed, coated and refinished in the same manner as traditionally manufactured wood components.
“Forust offers nearly unlimited design flexibility,” says Jeffery. “From exotic grain structures to grainless wood, we can digitally reproduce wood textures and a myriad of grain types. And, because they are made from a wood and bioresin compound, these parts exhibit the functionality and stiffness in line with conventional wood. Our finished pieces are indistinguishable from traditionally manufactured wood products you would find in a store. The additive manufacturing process literally becomes invisible.”
Forust aims to transform volume production of wood parts through a completely digital manufacturing process the company reports:
- Streamlined Production of Complex Wood Designs. Because Forust produces parts additively layer by layer without the need for supports, designers can create complex features and iconic designs that would be difficult to produce with traditional woodworking methods.
- Quality Materials and Finishes. Unlike particle board or laminate, Forust produces a wooden part with a digital grain that flows throughout the entire part that can be sanded and refinished. Software has the ability to digitally reproduce nearly any wood grain, including rosewood, ash, zebrano, ebony and mahogany, among others. Parts will also support various wood stains at launch, including natural, oak, ash, and walnut.
- Cost-Effective Carbon Footprint Reduction with On-Demand Manufacturing. Forust’s process and materials are designed to offer easy access to an end-to-end sustainable manufacturing solution. Manufacturers and designers can submit their own custom designs for printing, order samples or pursue high-volume partnerships to produce custom, 3D printed wood pieces in volume foruse in their products. Additive manufacturing enables digital on-demand production.
“We want to make it easy for designers to explore complex new geometries for a wide variety of products and applications using an age-old material,” says Jeffery. “At the end of the wood product’s life, we would like to see customershave two choices—dispose of it and it will biodegrade over time as any wood product would, or shred it and repurpose the material into future parts through Forust. Our vision is a true circular manufacturing process.”
Unlimited Design Applications
The global finished wood products market is expected to reach $1.8 trillion by 2027. From everyday home goods to high-end, architectural detailing, Forust can create functional parts for virtually any wood application with a greatly improved environmental footprint than conventional manufacturing.
Manufacturers can upload and order custom designed wood pieces, such as:
- Architectural accents, including decorative panels, custom wood inlays and panels, tiles, hardware and more;
- Luxury interior components in various finishes and materials, including rare and exotic grain structures, for vehicles, yachts and high-end homes;
- •Furniture pieces, including cabinetry doors, chairs, accents, tables and designs with complex 3D geometry; and
- Home goods products ranging from flowerpots, bowls and picture frames, to textured blocks, bathroom accessories, desk accessories, sculptures, tiles and more.
An array of consumer home goods pieces designed by Forust and others in collaboration with talented independent designers and brands, is now available for purchase at www.forust.com/store.
“Applications for Forust’s wood parts are really limitless,” says Ric Fulop, Founder and CEO of Desktop Metal. “There are many applications where polymers and plastics are used today where you can now cost-effectively replace with sustainably manufactured wood parts—luxurious,high-end components in interiors, consumer electronics, instruments, aviation, boats, home goods and eventually in flooring and exterior roofing applications. For the first time, we can produce beautiful parts with the same durability and characteristics you would have in traditionally manufactured wood, but printed using upcycled materials which does not require cutting down or harvesting trees. With Forust, we have the opportunity to have a meaningful impact on sustainability, climate change and waste issues that we as a humanity have brought to the planet.”
Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.