Food 3D PrintingSustainability

Researchers 3D print a toilet that does not require flushing

The abrasion-resistant, super-slippery flush toilet ARSFT uses SLS technology and lubricants to obtain a surface that significantly reduces water consumption

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Researchers from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan have fabricated an abrasion-resistant super-slippery flush toilet (ARSFT) using a selective laser sintering 3D printing technology. Unlike traditional super-slippery surfaces with limited thicknesses which can be easily worn away, the powder-sintered strategy endows the ARSFT not only with a self-supporting 3D complex shape but also with a porous structure that can accommodate considerable lubricants for an abrasion-resistant super-slippery property.

Flush toilets waste a significant amount of water every day due to the unavoidable adhesions between human waste and the toilet surfaces. Super-slippery surfaces can repel complex fluids and various viscoelastic solids, however, are easily broken by mechanical abrasions.

The 3D printed ARSFT remains clean after coming in contact with various liquids such as milk, yogurt, highly sticky honey, and starch gel mixed congee, demonstrating excellent repellence to complex fluids. Besides liquids, the ARSFT exhibits a high resistance to sticky synthetic feces. Notably, even after being abraded to 1,000 cycles of abrasion using sandpaper, the ARSFT maintains its record-breaking super-slippery capability.

Schematic illustration of fabricating an abrasion-resistant super-slippery flush toilet (ARSFT) by selective laser sintering 3D printing technology.

The concept of the 3D printed object with a superior abrasion-resistant slippery ability will improve the development of super-slippery materials and further reduce water consumption in human society.

Since their invention in the eighteenth century, flushing toilets have provided human society with considerable conveniences and health. However, plenty of water is required in the flushing toilets. Globally, toilet flushing alone consumes more than 141 billion liters of water per day, which is six times the African population’s entire water consumption. Therefore, developing a new method for flushing toilets to minimize water consumption is of great importance.

Antifouling performances of the abrasion-resistant super-slippery flush toilet.

The ARSFT’s super-slippery surfaces were inspired by Nepenthes pitcher plants, which include a nano/microstructure substrate and infused lubricants. When the contaminants fall onto the substrate surface, they first encounter the lubricant film rather than the substrate surface, which can greatly reduce the interfacial adhesion and be widely applied in the anti-fouling, self-cleaning and anti-icing fields.

Laser-sintered polymer networks naturally provide quite porous and rough structure surfaces, which can accommodate the lubricant. Furthermore, the mechanical abrasion of the top surfaces will not affect the super-slippery capability since the exposed bottom one also contains the lubricant, indicating an alternative way to fabricate abrasion-resistant super-slippery flushing toilets (ARSFTs) with on-demand 3D structures.

The concept of ARSFT with a superior abrasion-resistant slippery ability is expected to improve the development of super-slippery materials and further save the water consumed on the earth.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites and, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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