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Industry & Trends

Lab Grown 3D Printed Wood? MIT Says It’s Coming

They are doing amazing things with 3D printing these days and the researchers at MIT say the latest is lab-grown wood which would “enable someone to ‘grow’ a wooden product like a table without needing to cut down trees, process lumber, etc.”

Wood is one of the most natural and easiest to work with building materials in the world but the researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are working on a way to make it even better.

According to MIT News, “In an effort to provide an environmentally friendly and low-waste alternative, researchers at MIT have pioneered a tunable technique to generate wood-like plant material in a lab.” Still in the development stage, the report says that by adjusting certain chemicals used during the growth process, they can precisely control the physical and mechanical properties of the resulting plant material, such as its stiffness and density.

And by using 3D bioprinting techniques, it will be possible to grow plant material in shapes, sizes, and forms not found in nature that can’t be easily produced using traditional agricultural methods.

“The idea is that you can grow these plant materials in exactly the shape that you need,” says lead author Ashley Beckwith, “so you don’t need to do any subtractive manufacturing after the fact, which reduces the amount of energy and waste. There is a lot of potential to expand this and grow three-dimensional structures.”

The MIT report does not give an estimate when this work would have widespread commercial applications but said “This research demonstrates that lab-grown plant materials can be tuned to have specific characteristics…like high strength to support the walls of a house or certain thermal properties to more efficiently heat a room.”

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