Printearth is an Ottawa based startup which specializes in manufacturing 100% biodegradable plastic filaments for 3D printers. Plastic filament is essentially the ink for 3D printers since it's melted and applied in thin layers by the printer to produce physical objects. The current industry standards are either petroleum based plastics or PLA. Even though PLA is a bioplastic, it's only compostable in commercial composters.
If 3D printing is going to be the revolution that we hope it to be, the average person will have a printer in their home and printing on a daily basis. It would be nice if these printed items were not only useful, but biodegradable when discarded. This is the vision for Printearth.
When asked why he started Printearth, Phil Chiasson said, "There wasn't anything available which was a truly green product, that's where Printearth comes in. In addition to offering compostable PLA, my company is developing a starch based plastic which is 100% biodegradable in soil or water."
Printearth is currently wrapping up an incubator program called Startup Garage and will be establishing its manufacturing operation shortly. Soon, the company will be ready to start the production and distribution of filament. Afterwards, Printearth's products will be available on its site printearth.ca. According to Chiasson, they're also happy to partner with established distributors and companies who are looking for biodegradable filament.
Like any good startup, Printearth is not without competitors. The current competitors are the regional companies that sell PLA. This makes Ottawa a particularly good city to run Printearth from as Ottawa does not have any other companies offering filament manufacturing. In a world of outsourced manufacturing, it's nice to see a company actually manufacturing their own product. That's why Printearth is such a great maker company. One of the touted benefits of maker culture is that it's going to bring manufacturing back to Western countries and by making its own filament, Printearth is on the crest of this wave.
The future for Printearth is in the other half of the 3D printer materials market: liquid resins. Some 3D printers use lasers to harden resin in sequential layers to produce physical objects. Once Printearth has established itself in the filament market it will bring biodegrable resins to the table. Printearth has already established connections with researchers who are developing photosensitive resins which are made from citrus fruit.