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In October 2019, additive-manufacturing veterans Andrew Jeffery (of the ceramics-focused printing start-up Figulo) and Virginia San Fratello and Ronald Rael (of the “make-tank” Emerging Objects) founded Forust to, in Jeffery’s words, “change the way we manufacture with wood by using methods that are non-destructive to our planet’s ecology.”

California-based Forust’s architectural tiles, panels and blocks have a grain that seems almost — but not quite natural. Their wooden wall elements are not hewn from solid lumber but are instead created by 3D printing with sawdust, salvaging scraps from the decidedly subtractive timber industry (which would otherwise be incinerated or put into landfills) and recycling them into new forms.

“We feel really confident in taking lots of things, making them into powder and printing them,” Rael jokes of the trio’s recent foray into new materials, which also include tea, salt and sand. To create their products, the Forust team leverages standard binder jetting 3D printers to deposit layers of fine wood particles with a proprietary binder that Forust claims is as non-toxic as the wood. According to Jeffery, “You could even eat it!”

While Forust currently capitalizes on the layering effect of a process that unintentionally approximates a natural grain, they explain that other effects are possible, as 3D-printed wood can do things that traditional lumber cannot. “You can print very, very thin with certain formulations of wood powder,” Rael says, noting that sawdust behaves much differently depending on its various sources and particle sizes. “You can even have translucency.” And all this with none of the waste that comes from carving away hunks of material.

The scale of individual parts is limited only by the size of the printer, and Forust envisions its work as focused primarily, for now, on interiors — cladding, partitions andother surfaces. While it’s still in the early stages, that goal has been put to the test with Poroso (a webbed modular dividing wall) and with components of Emerging Objects’ 3D Printed Cabin (exhibited in Oakland in 2018). “I think we can make some really compelling products,” says Jeffery, “that are beautiful, functional and have a long life, all without plastic.”

What’s Next in 3D Printing? According to This Start-Up: Sawdust

The California-based company Forust transforms waste from the timber industry into architectural tiles, panels, blocks and more.

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