NOVUM NEWS March 2020

Cellulose, as a renewable, non-toxic, non-allergic, and abundant forest material, has several benefits to be utilized in a wide range of applications. Currently, cellulose is mostly used in large-scale applications such as paper, packaging and textile. However, the current industrial technologies have limitations in forming from cellulose three-dimensional structures beneficial in complex shaped soft or hard objects. To overcome this structure related challenge in development of novel cellulose based products, VTT has invented cellulose composite materials, which are suitable for 3D printing technologies based on thermoplastic filaments or granules. This ‘all-cellulose’ material is bio-based and cellulose-based, containing thermoplastic cellulose in combination with cellulose fibres. The mechanical properties of the materials are comparable to commercially available PLA-based composite materials, but have improved temperature resistance.

The 3D printing materials were developed in EU-NOVUM project with a focus on electrical insulation components used in oil-cooled power transformers. The electrical insulation components are commonly made from cellulose and are different three-dimensional shaped objects. The current manufacturing is complex, consisting of multiple stages, consuming a lot of time and energy, and being labour-intensive, therefore there is a need to develop more efficient and agile manufacturing processes. In addition, it would be beneficial if the dependency of the process on moulds, especially metal moulds, could be reduced. By introduction of 3D printing into the process, these goals are expected to be accomplished. Implementation of 3D printing will enable more efficient production of electrical insulation components with complicated design and/or smaller production series. In addition, it will potentially make generation and exploitation of novel designs possible.

The novel NOVUM-materials can also be introduced to other industrial sectors interested in applying cellulose-based materials in 3D printing processes, such as packaging, construction, transportation and beyond.

Acknowledgements: This research has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 768604.

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