3D Printing Technology and Its Environmental Impacts

iCrowdNewswire   Jan 27, 2021  1:08 PM ET

Already started governing the whole new way of manufacturing things, it will be imperative to understand how 3D printing technology will impact the environment. When the world is changing and most of the inventions are triggered towards providing ease of living, finding alternatives that could help restore the planet’s health can be a real blessing. And, regarding 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing technology, there has been a lot of debate. Some consider that technology is a boon for the environment. While others have a completely different perspective.

According to pick3dprinter, this revolutionary technology is surely helping businesses find a better and evolved way of creating things. But the question still remains: Is the technology prepared to solve the environmental woes? Would 3D printing find an eco-friendly way of building things from scratch. Finding out the ways additive manufacturing is impacting the environment, we can certainly assess its future among us.

What Are the Environmental Impacts of 3D Printing?

As discussed, there are some good and bad that this technology has brought with itself. The question is: would the perks weigh the limitations to give us a safer and eco-friendly alternative for manufacturing?

To answer that, here are the advantages and disadvantages of 3D printing in the environment.

Why is 3D Printing Good for the Environment?

Lower Material Consumption

Additive manufacturing, as the name suggests, operates through binding, sintering, fusing and melting the successive layers of materials together to complete part production. In short, it mostly uses the amount of material required to create components. However, with traditional manufacturing, this is not possible. Using the subtractive method, the materials are cut into desired shapes, while discarding the excess material for no use.

In a way, you only use the amount of material necessary for part production when working with 3D printing. This is why experts debate that the technology actually helps in saving energy. This is because the energy required to produce those excess materials is no more required.

Less Energy Needed for Transportation

3D printing offers us the benefit of creating objects from anywhere, regardless of where you are. For instance, you can use a desktop 3D printer for fabricating objects at home instead of setting an office for the same.

Or, you can also plan to keep a 3D printer at your store. In short, one can create objects from anywhere. Hence, when looked theoretically, the entire arrangement can solve the problem of transportation. With reduced transportation need, the emission will subside too. Hence, the impact of harmful gases on the environment would decrease as well.

Not just that, with 3D printing, users can create components that are 50% lighter than the ones manufactured by traditional methods. This is done with decreased infill percentage, where the interior of the components is sparse. Hence, offering lighter weight components.

Again, the lighter components will demand less energy during transportation. Moreover, if 3D printed, aircrafts and other vehicles will require reduced amounts of energy to operate. Hence, solving a lot of issues connected with emission during transportation.

Although these theories are completely justified, we still need a long way to go. Given that 3D printing is not widely accessible and limited to a handful of users, this benefit still remains to be realized on a bigger scale.

Eco-friendly and Recyclable Materials

There are two ways the 3D printing materials could save the harmful impact of product production. First is with the use of eco-friendly material. Recently, the eco-friendly 3D printing practices have taken the front seat. There are many companies that are coming up with sustainable and biodegradable materials for eco-friendly production. Using the plant based materials, and neglecting the petroleum based materials significant with traditional manufacturing, 3D printing is making a bold statement. For instance, the popular 3D printing polymer is made from corn.

Another important fact about 3D printing is that it can use recyclable materials. While plastics aren’t the most environment-friendly materials, it does have a great benefit. Plastics can be recycled. And, for making that possible, many tools and machines have emerged in the market that recycle 3D printing polymers obtained from failed prototypes.

However, these recycled materials tend to become brittle when going through the process of recycling over and over. The good news is that the experts are already working to improve the machines and let the manufacturing industry enjoy the use of recycled materials without such issues.

Why is 3D Printing Bad for the Environment?

High Use of Power and Energy

To operate 3D printers, we need consistent connection to the power source. The industrial 3D printers, which are huge, require huge amounts of energy to run. Not just that, the use of lasers, electron beams and various other energy sources, eat up 50 percent and even more electricity during part production.

All these when summed together can give us a clue about the ways 3D printing is impacting the environment indirectly. Most of the countries around the globe depend on non-renewable raw material for power generation. The higher will be the need for electricity, the faster will be the depletion of fossil fuels.

Hence, 3D printing technology cannot be considered completely environmentally safe. After weighing the pros and cons of the additive manufacturing methods, we may feel that the advantages overweigh the disadvantages, but we still aren’t close enough to call 3D printing ‘eco-friendly’.

The Conclusion

We do have a lot of ways for creating parts and components. From traditional to the revolutionary 3D printing technology, there are a lot of choices for manufacturers and businesses. However, to bring those options that are safer for the environment could leave us with a lot of confusion. Debating about 3D printing and its impact on restoring the planet’s greenery is not very easy to conclude so far.

Mostly because the technology isn’t still widespread. And, we haven’t been able to uncover the complete potential of additive manufacturing yet. However, with proper research and consistent development, we may be able to come up with solutions that could turn 3D printing into an eco-friendly alternative for manufacturing.


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