The professor uses recycled coffee as material for 3D printing.


The University of Colorado Assistant Professor Micheal Rivera has made a groundbreaking discovery in the world of 3D printing. He has found a way to use coffee grounds as a material for 3D printing, creating sturdy and biodegradable objects once they harden. This new method not only showcases the potential of coffee grounds as a sustainable material but also encourages others to explore innovative ways to create a more environmentally friendly future.

The idea of recycling or repurposing waste products is nothing new, but Rivera’s coffee 3D printing technique is particularly intriguing. In this article, we will delve into how Rivera developed this unique method and explore the possibilities that 3D printing holds.

Coffee grounds, in their raw form, cannot be used directly in a 3D printer as they would damage the machine. Therefore, Rivera and his team had to transform the coffee grounds into a substance similar to thermoplastic. To achieve this, they mixed the coffee grounds with cellulose and xanthan gum, which are common food additives that easily degrade in compost bins. They also added water to create a mixture with the consistency of peanut butter.

However, the researchers faced another challenge – loading this gooey mixture into their 3D printer. To overcome this, Rivera modified his printer by incorporating plastic tubes and a coffee-paste syringe. With these adaptations in place, they were able to test their new coffee 3D printing method.

To their surprise, the objects they created using coffee grounds were incredibly strong, comparable to unreinforced concrete. “We’ve made objects with a ton of usage,” Rivera exclaimed. “We’ve dropped them, and they haven’t broken yet.” Using their new technology, they crafted various objects, including jewelry pieces and disposable espresso cups. They also discovered that adding activated charcoal to the coffee material imparted electrical conductivity.

One of the most exciting applications they explored was using coffee 3D printing for plant pots. Instead of transferring seedlings from a pot to the ground, the seedling can be directly planted with its coffee-printed pot. As the pot decomposes, it provides nutrients for the developing plant, making it a more sustainable alternative to conventional plastic pots.

Despite the success of their coffee 3D printing method, Rivera acknowledges that it is unlikely to become widely adopted. However, he believes it can serve as a guiding light for the development of other sustainable 3D printing materials, potentially replacing conventional plastics in the future.

For readers who may not be familiar with 3D printing, it involves the layering of molten plastic to create various shapes. It has a wide range of applications, from creating small trinkets to producing prosthetic implants. In fact, in May 2023, researchers at Stanford University successfully 3D printed living organs using stem cells and a special formula. This breakthrough in bioengineering opens up a world of possibilities for creating replacement organs for those in need.

In conclusion, Rivera’s coffee 3D printing method provides an exciting glimpse into the future of sustainable manufacturing. By repurposing coffee grounds, he has created a biodegradable alternative to thermoplastics typically used in 3D printing. This material not only holds promise for indoor gardening but also exhibits impressive durability and potential for electrical conductivity. As we continue to explore the possibilities of 3D printing, there is no doubt that innovative solutions like Rivera’s coffee 3D printing method will contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future.

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“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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Meet the mastermind behind GCode-Guru, a 3D printing wizard whose filament collection rivals their sock drawer. Here to demystify 3D tech with a mix of expert advice, epic fails, and espresso-fueled rants. If you've ever wondered how to print your way out of a paper bag (or into a new coffee cup), you're in the right place. Dive into the world of 3D printing with us—where the only thing more abundant than our prints is our sarcasm.


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