Circular 3D print material from mussel shells

This project was my graduation project of the Master program Integrated Product Design at the TU Delft.

In my graduation project I developed a recyclable 3D printing material made from mussel shells and defined applications for this material.


This project was initiated to explore the role of 3D printing in a circular economy. 3D printing offers a range of possibilities for a circular economy. One of these is the possibility for local manufacturing, explained in the image below:

This project is divided in two phases: the material development and search for applications.

Material development

Previous research had proven that it was possible to use mussel shells for FDM 3D printing, by grinding the shells into a fine powder,mixing it with water and a binding material. In this phase different binding materials were explored on their suitability; suitable materials were tested on recyclability; from these group two final materials, sugar and alginate, were chosen to continue with. Concluding the complete manufacturing process of the material was defined.

To print the material, I had to adjust a 3D printer to enable it to print a paste. I had access to an Ultimaker 2+ for this project, so I adjusted this printer so it would extrude by air pressure, and adjusted the print head so I could insert a syringe with the developed paste.

[image printer setup]

Material characterisation

To find suitable applications, the material had to be fully understood. In this phase the material characteristics were defined. Because the material is produced in thsi project, I had control over every parameter in the process of manufacturing. It was therefore not enough to see the characteristics as static, but to understand how altering the process parameters (e.g. amount of binder material, firing the material) affected the material characteristics. Because the material was intended to be recycled, it as also tested how recycling affected the main characteristics.

  • process parameters
  • recycling
  • External factors

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