Together with Sygnis S.A. – we did a joint 3D printing project!
Wait a minute – bread and 3D printing? How do you combine the two? It turns out that not only can it be done, but it can also be much needed.
Where does stale bread in production come from?
We are looking for and exploring ways to use stale bread as a raw material to create new, healthy products. We knew about the possibilities of using biopolymers in 3D printing, corn starch or sugar beet. So why not harness the potential of bread?
"Any way to save bread from becoming waste and keep it in a closed production cycle is the right way. We are looking for solutions that we could apply globally. Our friend mentioned the high-tech company Sygnis, which could be open to such a collaboration." - comments Bartłomiej Rak from REBREAD.
Andrzej Burgs, CEO of Sygnis SA, reacted to the idea with great enthusiasm. He has an excellent understanding of the problem of food waste in the world and was quick to declare his willingness to cooperate and try to use stale bread in the production of 3D printing material.
We delivered a bag of stale bread to the Sygnis machine park. Work began. They first checked whether it was possible to create a filament based on biodegradable PLA (polylactide) plastic with the addition of the stale bread. This was done using a set of 3devo machines stationed in our machine park in Warsaw. The project team consisted of two people: Joanna Wądołowska-Frej and Natalia Pawłowska, who at Sygnis are responsible, among other things, for conducting research and development work aimed at creating new types of 3D printing materials and recycling felt.
The work on this project would not have been possible had it not been for the machines of Dutch company 3devo, which allow us to carry out recycling processes and work on new types of 3D printing materials.
3devo - machines for trial and error.... and ultimately success
3devo is a technology company founded by young, imaginative engineers in the Netherlands. Their mission is to create accessible and high-quality products to 'close the loop' on the production, processing and reuse of 3D printing materials. They started their work in 2014 and today provide complete solutions for working with new materials and recycling filament. Just such a set-up can be found in the Sygnis machine park.
3devo's goal is to help companies, educational institutions and research labs move towards a more sustainable business model - not only from an economic perspective, but also an environmentally friendly 3D printing practice. They remain focused on this goal by continuously improving their products and finding ways to take material innovation to the next level.
"We are working with 3devo because our visions of the future are aligned. We want to take care of the environment by promoting green technologies that bring us closer to closing the waste cycle. We are committed to developing the recycling potential of 3D printing materials not only within our machine park, but also in industrial and research environments. Thanks to our Dutch partner's solutions, research into new materials is easier to carry out and the entire ecosystem of equipment takes up little space, offering endless possibilities in return," says Joanna Wądołowska-Frej, engineer at Sygnis SA's R&D department.
What is the processing like?
We can grind the black bread easily because it is free of water. We then mix it with polymer granules at a ratio of 1:9 and can successfully extrude it using the 3devo Composer 450 machine.
But one step at a time...
After grinding the bread, the pre-prepared mixture of granulate and stale bread is poured into the hopper, or funnel. The mixture is fed into an auger/screw with a geometry that facilitates homogeneous mixing of the polymer and additive. This means that both components are evenly, uniformly mixed. In order to achieve complete melting of the polymer, the auger/screw guides the material through four heating zones, each of which has a suitable temperature set independently. This can be neither too high nor too low. This allows us to change the state of aggregation of the material at the appropriate rate without changing the chemical composition of the mixture.
The extruder at the end of the screw/screw has a nozzle with a diameter of 3mm, from which the prefabricated filament flows stably. Next to it is a sensor that tests the diameter of the filament. It indicates whether the resulting material has a constant diameter. In addition, thanks to feedback, the extruder is able to automatically adjust the tensile force to maintain the diameter set by the user. What does this mean? It means no less than that the machine is able to maintain its own operating parameters to create the 3D printing filament again! This is called full automation!
What have we been able to create?
Thanks to the 3devo machines and the work of the team at Sygnis, we were able to produce a 3D printing filament with an admixture of stale bread, where approximately 90% of the material is PLA (polylactide) and 10% is dry bread. A series of tests confirmed that we could successfully 3D print from our experimental filament.
"The most difficult part was preparing the right polymer blend with black bread. The whole process went quite smoothly, as 3devo provides ready-made material profiles for the most popular thermoplastics for 3D printing. They make it easy to work with new blends and experiment independently, comments Natalia Pawlowska, junior engineer in the R&D department of Sygnis SA.
More projects lie ahead.
Approximately 2 million tonnes of bread are wasted in Poland every year, indicating a significant problem and, at the same time, an opportunity for innovative solutions that could save unsold bread and create new products from it, exactly as in the case above.
Dry bread is proving to be a raw material with enormous potential, which, as you can see, can be used in many unobvious and surprising ways.
"Our aim is to inspire others and encourage collaboration between different industries that will work together towards not wasting food and taking care of the closed loop in business. Our project with Sygnis brilliantly shows how waste in the food industry can become a raw material in a completely different industry." - explains Bartłomiej Rak from REBREAD.