Hub and Spoke SM²ART
The Hub & Spoke Sustainable Materials & Manufacturing Alliance for Renewable Technologies (SM²ART) with Oak Ridge National Laboratory was initiated by the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center in 2016, when officials from Oak Ridge National Laboratory visited Maine as part of the Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT). Modeled after the National Disaster Recovery Framework, an EDAT enables the federal Economic Development Administration to marshal the full range of federal resources on behalf of a region experiencing economic distress like Maine experienced with the closure of major paper mills, which resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs. ‘SM²ART‘ combines the Advanced Structures and Composites Center’s extensive forest-derived bio-based composites expertise with Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s advanced manufacturing capabilities through its Manufacturing Demonstration Facility to connect a national laboratory to local ecosystems. Since then, SM²ART has grown to include researchers from across the University of Maine, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee Knoxville.
Traditional feedstocks for 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, tend to be petroleum/fossil-based. As additive manufacturing continues to grow there is a need to identify more sustainable, cost-effective 3D printing feedstock alternatives and work with industry to support widespread adoption.
Nanocellulose is nature’s super polymer. Extracted from cellulose, the basic component of plant cell walls, nanocellulose exhibits a range of properties that make it an attractive and versatile bio-based material. One of the most common forms of nanocellulose is cellulose nanofibrils (CNF).
By placing CNF into plastics, strong, stiff, and recyclable bio-derived material systems can be developed. As a bio-based material, CNF could rival the properties of steel, and its successful incorporation into plastics shows great promise for a renewable feedstock suitable for additive manufacturing. Nanocellulose is helping build the forest products of the future.
Maine is a natural hub for forest-based innovations and the development of cutting-edge new forest products. Maine is the most heavily forested state in the country by the percentage of land area. Maine’s economy has been deeply rooted in its forests.
The University of Maine has pioneered patented nanocellulose extraction techniques and is home to the only publicly accessible facility in the United States that can manufacture CNF at a rate of one ton per day.
In 2019, the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center commissioned the world’s largest polymer 3D printer with a 60ft x 22ft x 10ft print envelope. To demonstrate the new printer’s capabilities, a 25ft long, 5,000lb. patrol vessel was printed in 72 hours, earning two Guinness World Records for the world’s largest 3D printed boat and the world’s largest 3D printed object.
Printing with 50% wood promises to open new markets for Maine’s forest products industry.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility is the U.S. Department of Energy’s first user facility focused on rapid-scale up and manufacturing research and development.
Scientists from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Maine are conducting fundamental research in several key technical areas, including CNF production, drying, functionalization, compounding with thermoplastics, multi-scale modeling, and life-cycle analysis. In addition, the team is working alongside the industry to support the widespread adoption of these new bio-based feedstocks in an effort to cost-effectively de-carbonize manufacturing.