Just read about a new company, called 4 AXYZ, who has developed a process to 3D print items using wood. The company stresses that their process isn’t technically 3D printing since what they are doing is combining small, uniformly-cut pieces of wood and securing the layers together with a binding material.
The results certainly look very much like 3D printing:
There are a couple of interesting aspects to their manufacturing process:
1) They can embed sensors in the products they produce. If you haven’t been following along, putting sensors everywhere is going to be a huge part of the next wave of innovation.
2) They are able to easily combine different types of material with their wood products:
Without any extra manufacturing cost, a customer could increase or decrease the size of the object they order, or substitute in a different kind of wood. More interestingly, they could combine different types of wood and materials (think carbon fiber or Kevlar) to create composite items that would currently be very difficult to make.
Here’s a picture of a wooden window frame with a core made of cork:
Gigaom says 4 AXYZ are looking for funding to purchase the equipment to get started on manufacturing items using their process. However, the 4 AXYZ web site claims there were going to get started in the Fall of 2013. Sounds like getting the necessary funding is taking longer than they expected (which is hardly unusual).