Innovative Robotic Arm Capable of 3D Printing with Wool


What if you could 3D print wool? The range of materials compatible with 3D technologies continue to surprise us, with everything from coffee to beer available! Now, in a project led by a Dutch designer, Christien Meindertsma, a tailor-made robotic arm has been made that is capable of depositing wool layer by layer and forming all kinds of objects, without adding water or any other material. Called FLOCKS Wobot, this robot gives a second life to wool that cannot be used in the textile industry because it is too fine and would otherwise be thrown away.

The designer’s project is part of contributing to a circular economy. Her website states that 1.5 million kilos of wool (or about 3.3 million lbs) are thrown away every year in the Netherlands. Meanwhile, in the US, in 2022 alone, 11.9 million lbs were, so imagine the ecological consequences if all that ends up in waste. Her solution aims to fix that.

3D-printed wool offers many advantages. What’s more, wool has a number of advantages over other materials such as polystyrene: it’s recyclable and biodegradable, strong and solid, has excellent insulating properties, and is permeable to water. It is also fire-resistant (up to 560°C). Wool could therefore be a good material of choice when combined with 3D printing.

The Dutch designer collaborated with TFT to create a unique robotic arm. This is hooked up to a cobot, a collaborative robot furnished with sensors to safely co-work with the user. Said system has the capability to layer wool on top of each other, functioning like a 3D printer and its material. According to the designer, this system can accept any wool type, but raw wool was found to yield better results due to its environmental sustainability. She explains, “You can use this technology with any European wool. There’s no need for the wool to be particularly refined; it doesn’t even have to be prepared – just cleaned.”

One may ask, what is the purpose of 3D printing with wool? Potential uses span across diverse industries, especially in the crafting of acoustic and insulation materials, or in the design and interior decorating fields. Given the characteristics of wool, application in various sectors could prove highly beneficial. Meanwhile, the work of Christien Meindertsma, including the Wobot, will be displayed at Cuypershuis in Roermond, Netherlands until March 2024, and at V&A in London until the upcoming October. Click HERE to learn more about her creations.

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Original source


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