Can You Use Eggshells as a 3D Printing Material?

Published on March 13, 2023 by Madeleine P.
3D eggshells

We are always discovering new and interesting 3D printing materials. Just recently, we told you about how researchers are using bacteria to essentially grow strong and porous 3D printed composite materials. And today we have yet another one: eggshells! This project, which was conducted in Mexico, revealed the potential of this food waste. Indeed, a design studio called Manufactura was able to obtain a paste from recycled shells that was used to build a wall, layer by layer. They called this initiative the “Eggshell Project”: its objective is to revalue our food waste and to bypass the use of cement in construction, a material that is quite harmful to the environment.

Mexico has been one of the world’s largest consumer of eggs for many years, as the food is still a very affordable commodity in the country and therefore a very popular protein for its inhabitants. In 2021, the annual per capita egg consumption as reported by the National Poutry Producers Association was about 409 eggs per person – for comparison, in the USA in 2022, it was around 277.5 per person. The Manufactura studio teams therefore saw an opportunity: to reuse the eggshells that up until that point had just been piling up in the garbage.

The wall was 3D printed using eggshells (photo credits: Arturo Arrieta)

The Eggshell Project: A 3D Printed Wall Made From Eggshells

To accomplish this, they harvested shells locally – from restaurants in Mexico City over a two-month period – and washed and blended them before passing them through a sieve. Then, the shells were mixed with aggregates and bio-binders to give a kind of consistent paste, which could be extruded layer by layer, without going through a cooking step. The extruder was attached to a robotic arm from KUKA and the machine was able to design different bricks. In total, 105 3D printed blocks were designed and assembled according to their shape to build a wall. The team also designed a more artistic column that includes 26 3D printed pieces.

And the result is quite impressive: it seems that the bricks are very strong, finally fulfilling their primary objective to replace the traditionally used concrete. This new eggshell-based material could therefore be an interesting alternative to less eco-friendly construction materials – though it remains to be seen how sustainable it will be over time. The team behind the Eggshell Project concludes, “Our process allows less waste production, geometrical freedom, precision, and repeatability.”

The different 3D printed blocks (photo credits: Arturo Arrieta)

Perhaps we’ll soon see the project replicated in other parts of the world. In any case, it is a beautiful way to revalue our food waste that shows once again how 3D technologies can support circular economy policies. If you are interested in the project, you can visit the Instagram page of the Mexican studio HERE.

Crédits photo : Enrique Aguilar

What do you think about using food waste like eggshells in 3D printing? Let us know in a comment below or on our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages! Don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly Newsletter here, the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox! You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.

*Cover Photo Credits: Zara Arroyo

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