Principal investigator: Ronald Kander

University: Thomas Jefferson University

Industry partners: Coexist, LLC

Throughout history, the hemp plant has been recognized as a sustainable, renewable source of material with a host of industrial and consumer applications. Currently, hemp is underutilized as a raw material in the US due to nearly a century of laws and policies prohibiting, or severely limiting, its industrial use. Since these laws and policies have changed, the use of hemp as an industrial raw material will continue to increase in the US due to our interest in sustainable, high-value consumer and industrial products made from renewable resources.

3D printing has become a main-stream way to rapidly prototype design concepts. Recently, however, 3D printing is not just used as a way to build prototypes, but also a way to rapidly produce customizable and functional parts. In order to expand this advanced application of 3D printing, more robust materials with improved mechanical and physical properties are needed. Reinforced polymer composites are a good way to meet these advanced material needs. However, composites are often not environmentally sustainable, are difficult to recycle, and are typically not biodegradable or compostable.

In this project, we will work with Coexist to develop a line of hemp-reinforced polymer 3D printing filaments that are biodegradable, sustainable, and have superior mechanical and physical properties. The work will involve processing locally grown hemp and incorporating it into polymers via lab-scale compounding and extrusion processes. Resultant composite filaments will be used in a 3D printer to make parts that will then be tested to measure their mechanical and physical properties. Finally, we will demonstrate that these 3D printer filaments can be manufactured economically in Pennsylvania using locally grown hemp biomass as a feedstock.