In a column of LiveScience.com, Melba Kurman and Hod Lipson, authors of “Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing” are raising skepticism over Eco-friendly printing. Initially, 3D printing was perceived to be an ecological and conventional method. However, the writers feel the jury is still out on whether the method is eco-friendly, since manufacturing does generate a lot of pollution.
Is 3D Printing Actually Eco-Friendly Printing?
3D printing does have many benefits over traditional manufacturing techniques. It increases product value by maintaining a strong mass manufacturing base. As a result, the profit margins increase. In addition, the raw materials are used effectively by skilled laborers. It is also easy for designers to produce products that are lighter in weight and that have longer product life.
The writers say that 3D printing does not use technology to be an eco friendly method of printing. While research is on to make a cleaner manufacturing unit, the technology is not there yet. The benefits may seem advantageous, but there are many disadvantages that have environmental impacts.
3D printing consumes a lot of electrical energy. 3D printers use 50 to 100 times more electrical energy to melt plastic as compared to the conventional method. 3D printing also depends highly on plastic. Plastic is made from non-renewable raw materials. One of the major contributors to pollution has been plastic waste. By contrast, the traditional method of injection molding seems to be a cleaner method. It also uses lesser plastic material for manufacturing.
3D printers are high emitters of ultra fine particles. According to research, ultra fine particles are hazardous to health. It can cause airway inflammation, vascular thrombogenic, altered heart rate, and accelerated atherosclerosis. So, in an industrial scale 3D printing environment there are many health risks for those working in such an environment.
3D printing is not very helpful to the environment, and can cause health problems too. So, the conviction that 3D printing is eco-friendly does not fit in anymore.
Using Eco-Friendly Printing the Right Way
If the effort is to make 3D printing more eco friendly, then the writers believe it could be through 3D-printed manufacturing. In this, stored renewable energy should be assigned to printing manufacturers with fuel schedules. It will schedule the 3D printing production runs. People should be made aware of using reusable items such as eco friendly promotional items to protect the environment.
As a result, there will be controlled use of renewable resources. It will reduce the dependence on plastics which will effectively bring down the amount of pollution. In addition, it will not affect the profit margins and still give room for the designers to work creatively.