California professors use 3D printing to create sustainable products from sawdust

California professors use 3D printing to create sustainable products from sawdust

Under the company Forust, the professors and co-inventor Andrew Jeffery will create products for the automotive and architectural industry.

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September 14, 2021

Two California-based college professors have teamed up with 3D printing entrepreneur Andrew Jeffery to create sustainable products using recycled sawdust.

Ronald Rael, chair of the Department of Architecture at UC Berkeley, and Virginia San Fratello, chair of the Department of Design in the College of Humanities of Arts at San Jose State University, have co-founded the company Forust Corp. alongside Jeffery with the goal of diverting sawdust from landfill to create products for the automotive and architectural industry.

"We have been experimenting for a very long time with ways to take alternative materials instead of plastics and use them in additive manufacturing," Rael told WLS-TV Chicago. "We've experimented with a number of recycled materials, but sawdust is one that we have been developing for a number of years and it is such an available material."

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, over 1.2 million square feet of forests are destroyed each year. From this, Forust says millions of tons of wood waste are generated annually. A portion of this waste is recovered and sold to downstream markets to make particle board or wood pellets for energy.

The remaining sawdust is either burned or sent to landfill. Forust’s goal is to significantly reduce the amount of sawdust sent to landfill or incineration by processing it for 3D printing and combating deforestation by producing sustainable products from wood waste.

The company’s resulting material, known as Forustwood, is a composite of wood particles encased in a bio-epoxy resin, with strength similar to wood. It can be readily worked, fastened and finished with conventional wood finishing methods.

"When you imagine the amount of waste that is produced every year around the world in terms of wood waste or construction. You can just imagine the possibilities of what could be done with that instead," said Rael. "Forust is an additive industry where were starting with all of those pieces and parts and we are adding them together to make new products.

"Were really excited to be at the forefront of a new way of thinking about how you make things in the world. Using a new kind of technology and the impact that the technology will have on the future of our planet."