3D Printing Hailed as the Environmental Saviour
A recent study by Michigan Tech University claims that the latest craze of home 3D printing could actually help to save the planet.
Apparently, creating products using 3D print technology uses around 64% less energy than traditional manufacturing processes. There’s also the massive carbon footprint created by overseas export on top of the factory production processes to consider. In addition to the notable savings on CO2 emissions made by circumventing the mass production route of production, consumers can save themselves a fortune in cash by making their own goods at home.
The study showed that on average 20 items could be made using a home 3D printer at a cost of around $18. The same items would cost between $350 and a whopping $2,000 to purchase in a shop or on the net.
This at first sounds shocking but it’s actually quite logical when you think about it. A 3D printer works by layering material (wood, plastic, food, fabric etc) to the precise spec of a software-generated pattern in order to create an object. Factory production methods entail creating the component parts from raw materials and discarding the unwanted trimmings. 3d printing therefore does not create anywhere near as much waste as traditional methods of manufacture. There’s no need to transport products from the factory to the retail outlet and then to the consumer’s home – much better for the environment!
However, there is a downside. Some of the raw materials used for 3D printing are not particularly eco-friendly. PLA (polylactic acid) is a type of plastic made from renewable corn starch and this can be used with 3D printers but the most commonly used material is Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS). ABS is stronger than PLA and is much better for making some objects like gears, cogs and other moving parts. This makes it more popular with users. Although ABS is not environmentally friendly, it can be recycled.
Despite the advancement of technology and the wide range of different materials that can be used to print objects, it’s unlikely that home 3D printing will cause many producers to go out of business just yet. It might be something that manufacturers want to start considering on a larger scale for the sake of both the planet and their profits.
Image source: CNN
About Alison Page
Alison is a small business owner, freelance writer, author and dressage judge. She has degrees in Equine Science and Business Studies. Read her full story at http://www.theladywriter.co.uk