Wood-based 3D printing: Potential and limitation to 3D print building elements with cellulose & lignin

Christopher Bierach*, Alexsander Alberts Coelho*, Michela Turrin, Serdar Așut, Ulrich Knaack

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Under urgent sustainability targets, the building industry craves for renewable and recyclable biomaterials as cellulose is a fiber; Lignin is a plant-derived low-cost polymer with remarkable properties, yet its valorization is in its infancy. Recent studies have shown potentials to combine cellulose and lignin into a renewable bio-based material for the built environment, with the use of additive manufacturing to allow geometric customization and local control of material. However, previous studies also highlighted crucial issues to be solved. One main challenge is the lack of knowledge on combinations of lignin and cellulose with different binders to achieve a paste suitable for 3D printing, leading to a material applicable in the built environment. To contribute overcoming the challenge, this research aimed to explore various combinations of cellulose, lignin, and binders and to study the extrudability of the resulting paste using a clay extruder installed on a robotic arm. Several combinations were explored, evaluated, and compared. The four recipes with the highest scores were used to produce samples for tensile and three-point bending tests, water absorption and retention tests, and microscope analysis. The overall outcome has shown similarities between the mechanical properties of the mixture developed using methylcellulose as the binding agent and rigid polymer foams, such as the ones commonly used as insulation panels. Moreover, the material mix with the highest score in the preliminary assessment was further applied to fabricate samples with varied geometries to assess its potential and limitations combined with the fabrication process. Finally, two demonstrators were produced to explore the printing process for different geometric configurations: conceptual window frame and structural node were designed, and 3D printed as proof of concept.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-170
Number of pages14
JournalArchitecture, Structures and Construction
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • wood
  • lignin
  • cellulose
  • 3D printing
  • window frame
  • structural design


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