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Purdue Students Develop Soybean 3D Printer Material

3D printers typically use plastics to make products out of a computer design.

Purdue University students have developed a soybean-based material that can be used for 3D printing.

Filasoy, as it’s called, is a low-energy, low-temperature, renewable and recyclable filament, and it’s made from soy, tapioca root, cornstarch, and sugar cane.

Carmen Valverde-Paniagua is one of the students that developed the material. She says right now most 3D printers use plastics—not organic material.

“This is a much better alternative to ABS as well as some other plastics – which are petroleum derived – so they are toxic chemicals, as well as not deriving from renewable resources, Paniagua says.

She says 3D printing is becoming more accessible as the price of printers decreases and is now used in everything from academia to the fashion industry.

“But I think the new wave, what’s really going to push the industry forward, is renewable materials, different materials that people can tinker with, so that’s really the market that we’re trying to get into,” Batalis says.

Another benefit of Filasoy, Paniagua says, is that it would cost about the same as the plastics 3D printers are using now.

Paniagua and her colleagues recently won first place for their product in the Student Soybean Product Innovation Contest.

The contest, which is sponsered by the Indiana Soybean Alliance, invites teams of Purdue students to create innovative new products from soybeans.

Soybean products serve as increasingly important substitutes to petroleum, which is harsher on the environment and is becoming scarcer.

Products from previous years’ competitions, such as soy-based candles and crayons, have been put into production and this year’s entrants will have the same chance.

“We’ll be looking at not only the winning products but all the 15 entrants and evaluating them for commercial viability,” says Melanie Batalis, the Director of New Uses at the Indiana Soybean Alliance. “We’ll go through patent searches, we’ll do manufacturing analysis, and hopefully we’ll get some of these products on the market.”

The Filasoy team will receive a $20,000 prize.

Members include Paniagua, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering; Nicole Raley Devlin, a doctoral student in chemical engineering; and Yanssen Tandy, a senior student in chemical engineering.

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