3d printing is a very disruptive technology, sooner than later we will see 3d printing fab labs located just around the corner. You will be able to get 3d printed products at a nominal cost at these 3d printing stores. So the big question is whether 3D printing is a any better for the environment than the conventional methods of manufacturing. Today we are not here to be the judge, we mere want to let our viewers know the facts that are pro and against 3d Printing being a green technology.
Arguments supporting 3d printing being a Green Technology
1. It breaks the conventional Supply Chain:
If you happen to buy a cup in America you will realize that it's made in China or India, a simple product which is being used every day and is available in almost every household has to travel all across the globe to be sold where there are customers available. The Energy consumed to ship these products are astonishing high. With 3d printing the consumer becomes the manufacturer hence saves all the energy that the oil guzzling ships laden with Containers use while freight finished products and raw materials from one continent to another.
2. Obsolete products are wasted:
Consumer behavior is a weird science, no one knows when one product goes out of fashion and the market is taken over by another. The wastage of unused products is a huge problem, these unused products are then reshipped to another country or is usually destroyed adding to the environmental hazard. With the 3d printing people will only produce the things they need and in exact qualities. Hence nothing is being wasted.
3. Reduction in errors during prototyping:
In Its indirect form 3d printing is helping people save a lot of time and material used during the prototyping stage. A perfect prototype can at times make or break a product. Of late, we have seen many instances in the automobile industry where a whole batch of manufactured cars had to be recalled for a small mistake. With 3d Printing we can test a product in real life situations and the reliance on computers for simulation will be reduces. 3d Printing is already helping the Airline industry where 3d printed fuel nozzles are helping save Fuel worth millions of dollars.
Arguments against printing being a Green Technology
1. 3D Printing is an Energy hungry process:
The 3d printers in use today are not energy efficient, the ones that use heat or a laser to melt plastic consumed up to 100 times more electrical energy than traditional mass manufacturing to make an object of the same weight. There is no concrete study to show that the carbon output is lower at any step of the supply chain.
2. Extensive dependency on plastic:
Most 3d printers use Plastic as raw material to make prototypes. We all know plastic is a non degradable product and can be blamed the most for the pollution we are suffering from today. According to a report 3d printer are using 30 million pounds of fresh plastic all made from petroleum. It says that based on current trends, that translates to 1.4 million barrels of oil by 2020.
3. Wastage of material:
3d Printing is not a click and print technology, you ask any 3d printer he will tell you that almost 30% of the prints go bad. Every time this happens, we are wasting plastic of other powdered material used in 3d printing. For SLS, the unused powder is altered by heating in the build chamber, which means that some materials cannot be reused at all but others can be mixed with virgin powders (mixing ratios vary per material) before being fed back into the machine leading to further wastage.
Every invention comes with its disadvantages and 3d printing is no exception to this, however we are now technologically smarter than we have ever been in the history of mankind. We are capable of finding solutions to the most difficult problems and Recycling plastic is one of the possible solution for the wastage from a 3d printer.