How to Use 3D Printing to Make Better More Sustainable Products

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We often hear experts claiming that 3D printing is a more sustainable method than prevailing manufacturing technologies. Some even believe that this revolutionary technology can replace conventional processes completely. While the latter is still in the theories, additive manufacturing does meet various criteria for sustainability, instilling itself as a great alternative to many existing methods for construction of objects.

3D printing helps in reducing waste by endorsing reuse and recycling of products. With that said, let us find out the different ways the technology is helping in creating better and more sustainable products.

Requires Less Transportation

Undoubtedly, transportation is an integral part of our conventional manufacturing technologies. And, with transportation, fuel utilization becomes an inevitable investment. Not just that, the burning of fuel during transportation emits harmful gases which aren’t safe for our environment.

To combat that, 3D printing helps save fuel by reducing the need for excess transportation. Using old methods, products are shipped a lot of times and finally they reach the shops. Most often, the products are manufactured in a different country. Later, these are transported to the local packaging companies and then reach the shops.

On the contrary, with 3D printers, individuals can turn whatever design they wish to create into a  3D file, create it in one country, and then email the 3D file to another country for production.

Even the shop owners can create products at their end with the help of the design files. This greatly reduces the need for shipping the product from one nation to another and even within a country’s borders. With 3D printing there’s no shortage of cool design ideas to inspire your 3D prints, with thousands of files available for 3D printing online.

Easy to Create Spare Parts

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When not able to find spare parts, we usually dump our items in the bins. And, managing increasing waste is again a huge problem for the environment. Think of a situation when we may run out of landfills and other ways of waste disposal. It does not sound pretty at all.

However, with 3D printers, one can simply design the spare parts in no time. It is not only easy to print these components, but you can also upgrade your electronics or other items all by yourself. Therefore, additive manufacturing immensely helps in waste reduction. Hence, making itself a sustainable way of manufacturing.

Filaments Can be Recycled

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With the growth of the 3D printing marketplace, there are better solutions being invented every now and then. One such development is the possibility of recycling 3D printing materials. You can find a number of machines currently that can recycle your used thermoplastics from failed prototypes or unused products to create new materials.

The process is simple. At first, companies select the plastic for recycling with close inspection. Later, they clean the selected plastics thoroughly. Later, these plastics are shredded into small pieces using machines.

Finally, these shredded materials go through an extruder. This is when the new filament takes its form.

What’s interesting is the fact that the recycled filaments are more durable. This is because these are completely recyclable over and over again. If you feel the process is a little bit tedious to carry at your place, you can also order recycled filaments from the market.

Avoid Excess Waste

Known for using exactly the required amount of material for printing parts, additive manufacturing technology serves as a very sustainable choice. As the name suggests, using additive manufacturing, the 3D printers add one layer over the other to create the final part.

Unlike subtractive methods, the technology makes use of only the material required to create parts. There is no or very minimal waste left after the product printing completes. When it comes to milling or laser cutting, the scenario is completely different. These older methods create a lot of waste and further contribute to environmental damage.

Hence, we can deem that 3D printing is a more sustainable method when compared to the conventional subtractive processes for manufacturing.

Utilizes Environmentally Friendly Materials

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Another important reason that makes 3D printing sustainable is the use of eco-friendly materials. PLA, for instance, is a biodegradable material. PLA, aka polylactic acid is a vegetable-based plastic and uses cornstarch as a raw material.

As mentioned, PLA is a completely biodegradable thermoplastic polymer made of natural and renewable raw materials.

Although there are other materials which aren’t safe for the environment as much as the PLA, choosing PLA could certainly make the overall printing process highly sustainable.

The Conclusion

3D printing is becoming more and more popular with passing time. Not only because it is very accessible, but also because it can provide many benefits for environmental safety. From generating less waste to involving biodegradable materials, the technology has a lot in store for its users. Most importantly, it can create complex designs with ease, which aren’t possible or highly difficult to manufacture using other methods. Sustainability is more of a cherry on the cake top.

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