University of Idaho Earns $4M to Build 3D-Printing Technology

MOSCOW, Idaho – September 30, 2021 – The University of Idaho is developing technology to turn Idaho wood waste into one of the most sustainable building materials on the market – by using it as a medium for 3D printing building materials.

An interdisciplinary research team led by College of Engineers Assistant Professor Michael Maughan received nearly $ 4 million from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program.

The funding until 2025 supports the further development and testing of an additive manufacturing process as well as the design and construction of a 3D printer that can be used to print modular wooden wall, floor and roof panels for industrial construction.

“We’re developing a new composite that uses fully bio-based resources on a large scale,” said Maughan. “With this technology, houses and commercial buildings can be built in a completely different way. We can drive climate change, mitigate the impact on our environment and make better use of the natural resources we have. “

Cooperation with the University of Art and Architecture Integrated design laboratory and the Natural Resources College Since 2019, the U of I team has been developing an advanced 3D printing technology that uses a binder and wood fibers that are not used by the wood market – such as scrap wood and sawdust from mills and wood processing plants. As part of the NSF grant, researchers from Auburn University will join the team to further refine the binder used in the renewable material.

U of I continues to lead sustainable construction projects like that Idaho Central Credit Union Arena, the country’s first wood-based materials venue set to open next month.

The multi-year 3D printing technology project is expected to have a positive impact on Idaho’s rapidly growing construction industry. According to the US Energy Information Administration, 60% of the world’s waste is generated in the construction sector. This new 3D printed material with unique carbon sequestration potential is expected to reduce this significantly, Maughan said.

The focus of research is on the structural properties of printed materials and the continuous testing of the material’s resistance to fire, water damage, pests and other decomposing substances in order to improve its resistance to time.

Despite rapid global urbanization, Maughan said the US construction industry is suffering hundreds of billions in lost productivity each year.

“Housing construction has very low productivity in terms of time invested and returns,” he said. “When you build a house, the contractors show up, they have to lift the structure and frame it. A number of things can disrupt the process – weather, manpower, tools, skills. It’s all very inefficient. “

This project was funded by the National Science Foundation under award 2119809. Total funding for the project is $ 992,148, 100% of which is federal, with a total intended funding of $ 3,974,309 over a multi-year period.

Media contact

Michael Maughan
Assistant Professor
U of I College of Engineering

Alexis Turner
Marketing and Communication Manager
U of I College of Engineering