What makes 3D printing sustainable?
Many people claim that 3D printing technology is more environmentally friendly for the manufacturing industry, than conventional construction processes. We endorse this theory, but we understand it needs some explanation in order to convince you to start 3D printing for your business.
1. Less transport is less CO2 emission
The biggest advantage of 3D printing is the simple fact that it can save a lot of fuel. In a normal production process, a product is often transported several times. The product is usually made in a production company in another country. After it is moved to a local packaging company, it finally goes to the shops. Since the product is transported a number of times, a lot of exhaust gases are released.
With the help of a 3D printer it is possible to make the entire product including packaging locally. The product can even be designed in one country and emailed (design file) to another country in preparation for production. It is therefore not necessary to transport the item several times. As a result, there is a reduction in shipping, air travel and road travel. An indirect but great benefit of what makes 3D printing sustainable.
2. Lighter products
When products are created with 3D printing technology, they might even be up to 50 percent lighter than traditional produced items. The inside can be more economically manufactured with a sparse interior structure than is possible with conventional methods. It means these 3D printed parts would require less energy to transport. Or even wilder; the very aircraft and vehicles performing the transportation could be 3D printed themselves, resulting in lighter vehicles that don’t need as much energy to operate!
3. Easy repair of parts
If (a part of) a certain product is broken, it is not always easy to replace such specific part fast. That's why often entire products are replaced. However, a 3D printer allows you to easily print the particular component by yourself. In this way you can reuse old products more often instead of buying new ones. It is a third environmentally friendly reason that makes 3D printing sustainable.
4. Less waste
3D printing uses only the exact required amount of material to create a part or product. The additive nature of 3D printing means that building parts are made layer by layer. It generates less wasted material than other subtractive forms of fabrication, such as milling or laser cutting. Another outcome making 3D printing sustainable.
5. Environmentally friendly materials
There are many materials that can be used for 3D printing. ABS for example, is a common thermoplastic polymer. Such plastic is very strong and lasts a long time, but the plastic is not easily biodegradable. However, nowadays, more and more PLA plastic is being used. This type is better for the environment and is biodegradable. If you are going to buy a 3D printer and want to take the environment into account, it is best to choose a 3D printer that prints with PLA plastic.
6. Recycled filaments
As the 3D printing industry grows, it makes it even more interesting to use recycled materials. There are currently several machines on the market that recycle thermoplastics — such as the material from failed prototypes. Used plastic is selected, thoroughly cleaned and passed through a shredder into small pieces. All material goes through an extruder and there the new filament reappears! Recycled filament is even more durable, because it can be fully recycled. There are also companies who sell recycled filament if you are not into producing the recycled filament yourself.
Conclusion about the sustainability of 3D printing
All of the above points out what makes 3D printing sustainable. We can convincingly state that 3D printing technology does bring environmental benefits.
Exhaust emissions can be reduced, less energy is used, repairments instead of replacements, less wastage and the possibilities to make products from more environmentally friendly materials plus the option to recycle any waste. The 3D technology will continue to grow and will become a technology that will overtake traditional methods.
This will changes the manufacturing processes in a way that is better for all ecological systems