Learning from Nature for Sustainable Additive Manufacturing

Anusha Withana, Phillip Gough, Anastasia Globa, Ali Hadigheh, Yi-Sheng Chen, Pegah Varamini


Additive manufacturing is transforming the modern industrial processes from personal devices to space travel. It is predicted the market share of additive manufacturing will surpass US$25 billion by year 2027 and is an integral part of Australia’s national Science and Research Priorities under the theme “Advanced Manufacturing”. Particularly, it is widely regarded that additive manufacturing will play a major role in a sustainable and circular economy where recycling can be integrated into manufacturing processes such as 3D printing. In the Australian context, a recent CSIRO report (2021) presents a roadmap for future growth in Australia that is created by the Circular Economy [1].

While researchers make rapid advances in additive manufacturing, societal needs, especially with growing smart cities and environments are highly heterogeneous. For instance, research shows that application needs can vary from small wearable smart devices [3] to large scale structures [6]. Such diverse applications demand agile, effective and efficient ways to manipulate material, mechanical and structural qualities of additive manufactured components. Bio-inspired or bio-integrated designs where fabrication processes are driven by concepts observable in nature has shown great promise in additive manufacturing domain to address these issues [2, 5] with sustainable designs [4]. Researchers should aim to use bio-inspired and bio-integrated methodologies to develop sustainable additive manufacturing processes.
1. Utilize bio-inspired design patterns in additive manufacturing methods, such as cellular designs along with functional materials (e.g. conductive polymers such as PEDOT:PSS) to develop programmable smart materials.
2. Develop bio-integrated designs, for instance, using myco-materials for additive manufacturing where growing fungi (e.g. Mycelia) into specific structures using waste (e.g. waste sawdust) as the growth medium.
3. Collect initial data and demonstrate the viability of bio-inspired and bio-integrated design in variety of applications from smart sensing to environments.

[1] Schandl, et. al. (2021). Circular economy roadmap for plastics, glass, paper and tyres -pathways for unlocking future growth opportunities for Australia.
[2] M. Mirkhalaf, e.t. al., “Overcoming the brittleness of glass through bio-inspiration and micro-architecture,” Nat Commun, vol. 5, no. 1, p. 3166, May 2014
[3] A. Withana, et. al. “Tacttoo: A Thin and Feel-Through Tattoo for On-Skin Tactile Output,” in UIST ’18, New York, USA, 2018, pp. 365–378
[4] Hadigheh, S., et. al. (2021). Optimisation of CFRP composite recycling process based on energy consumption…. Journal of Cleaner Production, 292, 125994.
[5] P. Gough, S. et al., “Applying Bioaffordances through an Inquiry-Based Model…,” International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, pp. 1–15, Apr. 2021
[6] Ammar Alkhalidi, Dina Hatuqay, Energy efficient 3D printed buildings…, Journal of Building Engineering, Volume 30, 2020, 101286