A Czech 3D printing company called Fillamentum has released the first ostensibly biodegradable filament, the stringy plastic used to extrude printed objects. Called NonOilen, the filament is made of a biologically based polylactic acid and polyhydroxy butyrate blend.
This is the first biodegradable 3D-printed plastic on the market, and it is also food safe, which means you can make cups, plates, and cutlery out of this vaguely tan-coloured plastic. Because it’s made from natural sources, it is potentially compostable in biologically active systems and will break down faster than normal PLA plastic. Further, you can recycle it completely, allowing you to make, shred, and reform the plastic multiple times.
To be clear, this plastic isn’t a panacea. As we noted back in March, manufacturers pay lip service to the environmental value of bioplastics, but the materials are still problematic.
“It has been controlled as a marketing arm, not a science one,” Taylor Weiss, an engineering working on algae-based plastics at the Arizona State University, told Earther. “Companies who say ‘this is biodegradable,’ just because it’s possible, it’s not likely.”
Given the amount of waste normal 3D printers produce in the form of rafts — the printed beds used to keep the products on the print surface — and supports, something like NonOilen is a welcome addition to the 3D printing arsenal. That said, don’t expect to drop this in your compost pile and have it turn into worm food any time soon.
For example, “PLA is biodegradable but it’s biodegradable like wood,” Weiss said. “It will degrade over time but you’ll need industrial facilities.”
The filament costs about $US46 ($60) for 750g of filament. It works with most major 3D printers and can survive temperatures of up to 110°C or 230°F.