If you want to build anything, you probably need to go down to the hardware store to pick up some materials, or order something from an online store. But what if you could create the materials you want to use from scratch?

An advantage of open-source design is that we can distribute the designs online so that the product can be made locally, reducing transport costs and environmental impact. Opendesk is a great example of this, where you can find a local maker with a CNC router to build furniture out of plywood based on an OpenDesk open-source design.

But we still have to ship the materials used to build the product, like the plywood in the Opendesk example. Current supply chains are optimised for centralised factories, not decentralised makers. What if we can use local materials instead? Imagine we can make it easy enough for a local woodland or forest owners to sell individual trees, and we can share mobile sawmills for on-demand wood production?

I've been wondering how this would work for other materials like plastics, and then this tweet popped up in my feed this morning:

Materiom is a brand new open materials database with recipes for biopolymers and composite materials you can make using locally abundant sources. For example, using mussel shells and sugar you can make a calcium carbonate composite that can be used in 3D-printing with a syringe pump extruder:

musselComposite[1]

I remember experimenting with creating artificial leather from kombucha as part of the first BioHack Academy back in 2015, so it was nice to see they've included a kombucha fabric recipe as well.


  1. Image licensed under CC-BY 4.0 : Marita Sauerwein, cover image by Margarita Talep Follert ↩︎