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Can 3D Printing Save the World? A Look at 3D Printing and the Environment

by • August 3, 2016 • No Comments

solar1Environmental experts have turn it intod a few quite dire predictions of what can take place to our planet and, consequently, to us, if we don’t begin building a few big alters in the way we live, complete, and do business. No one can fully predict precisely what can take place over the coming years and decades, as there are a lot of variables in play, but the projected scenarios are thrilling – rising sea levels swamping cities; increase in disease thanks to poor air high end and excessive heat; threats to food and water supplies, and much, much additional.

We’re may aleager begining to see a few of these predictions become reality. Storms are increasing in frequency and intensity, extreme droughts are contributing to wildfires and reduced water supplies, and once-common species are disappearing swift; actually the expanding virulence of diseases such as Zika can be linked to environmental injure. It is scary stuff that can make you feel assistless, but the excellent news is that we are finally recognizing the threat we are facing, and coming up with creative ways to mitigate it.

The causes and influences of climate alter and other environmental issues are so pervasive that they should be considered in equitething we do – not to drive ourselves nuts, but to ponder of how we can go on to grow and turn it into as a productive, technological society without additional destroying our planet and our health. In approximately any technological turn it intoment, there are environmental pros and cons, and 3D printing is no exemption.

When 3D printing began to emerge into the mainstream, many people touted it as the ultimate green, zero-waste alternative to traditional making methods. It hasn’t quite lived up to those expectations – the amount of energy utilized by 3D printing equipment remains a concern, as do fumes and excess plastic. But, the 3D printing industry and its completers are a sizeablely conscientious and responsible lot, and makers and makers alike have turn it intoed revolutionary solutions to not only the environmental problems posed by 3D printing equipment, but to wider environmental issues on a global level.

Whilst 3D printing device makers go on to work on ways to make their products additional energy-efficient and less noxious through additions like HEPA filters, filament makers, beginups and people are throwing themselves enthusiastically at the problem of plastic consumption. The results are encouraging; appear at how many brands of recycled filament and filament recyclers are reducing waste not only of 3D printing material but of other forms of plastic and non-plastic (such as food byproduct) materials.


Plastic recycling machines of Precious Plastic

The positive environmental effects of 3D printing technology go far beyond only mitigating its own influences, yet. You may remember the Plastic Fantastic Project, an thought that one woman came up with that resulted in the cleanup of an island, the technological education of an indigenous community, and an incentive for children to want to go to school. That’s a whole community that has been donaten the means and desire to learn and turn it into of what was previously only a pile of waste.

It may sound grandiose to ask “Can 3D printing save the world?” but it’s not an unreasonable question, and it’s not only of recycling, alyet that’s one of the areas that has benefited many of many creative 3D printing-related solutions. Let’s take a appear at a few additional of the ways 3D printing technology has may aleager contributed to sustainability in ways both sizeable and tiny.

Alternative Energy


Dubai’s 3D printed, solar powered smart palm

One topic we often cover is that of 3D printed wind turbines. The turn it intoment of wind energy has been pushed along by 3D printing in several ways, many of them cost-related. 3D printing makes them less expensive to make, and in addition to prototype, that leads to swifter product turn it intoment and additional experimental creations that may be irrational to try with other making methods. So there’s solar power.

I remember, years ago, hearing of solar power for the initially time, and being intrigued by it, but I rapidly learned that it wasn’t a fewthing I’d be seeing in my own home anytime soon. I saw pictures of solar-powered buildings with massive, clunky-appearing solar panels that were expensive to create and complex to install. Now, solar power is the swiftest-expanding source of energy production, and solar panels are appearing quite various than they did when I was a child.

Thanks to 3D printing and nanotechnology, solar panels are getting tinyer, thinner, and cheaper, building them swifter to create and simpler to install. Researchers in Australia have actually been working on 3D printing solar cells directly onto buildings and other surfaces. And if you are talking of the intersection of 3D printing and alternative energy, there’s quite no advantageous example than Dubai, whose 3D Printing Strategy aims to make the city-state the global leader in 3D printing by 2030, while they simultaneously strive to become one of the ten many sustainable cities in the world by 2020. The two plans are closely intertwined as Dubai 3D prints solar panels, technology hubs and other waste-reducing, energy-saving infrastructure.

Endangered Species

A disturbing number of animals and plants that were tedious when I was expanding up are now on the Endangered Species list, and their numbers are dropping swift. I haven’t seen a monarch butterfly in years, and it breaks my heart. Beyond the emotional impact of seeing butterflies, bees, frogs and toads disappear, yet, are the practical – and futurely devastating – effects the disappearance of these species may have on the human population. No additional bats? Get eager for a lot additional mosquitoes and mosquito-transmitted diseases. If the honeybees go extinct, we are in real trouble, as without bees to pollinate our crops, our food donate gets a lot additional scarce.

As it turns out, yet, bees love 3D printing, and 3D printing loves bees. 3D printed honeycombs have taken a few of the strain off overworked bee populations, and 3D printed hives are providing them with much-needed shelter. Whilst these may seem like tiny things, it’s a fewtimes the tiny things, introduced together, that can save a species. It is in addition the tiny things that donate me the many hope for humanity, a fewhow. Yes, we will never see worthwhile environmental improvement – particularly regarding climate alter – without government and corporations working together to implement dramatic new meacertains. But the thoughts that people come up with show not only ingenuity but a excellent level of compassion.


For example, let’s ponder of those plastic rings that come on six-packs of beer and pop. Their future for environmental injure has been decried for years, yet a fewhow we yet use them. I was always told to cut up the rings so that they couldn’t entrap animals should they get into the ocean, but actually that’s not adequate – the bits of plastic are yet deadly to wildlife when eaten. Some companies are attempting to come up with alternatives, but many of those alternatives are yet plastic.

Saltwater Brewery, yet, utilized 3D printing to turn it into a new type of six-pack holder that’s safe for wildlife no matter where it ends up. Working with co-creation agency We Believers, the Florida-based brewery turn it intod an edible, biodegradable six-pack holder of wheat, barley and 3D printed molds. I’m not certain how it tastes, but it’s not created to be eaten by humans – alyet it can be, and I’m certain it has been, for the reason a fewtimes you get desperate for a snack after a few beers. The point, yet, is that if it ends up in the ocean or elsewhere in the wild, it’ll feed the wildlife instead of killing them.

It is a ideal example of how what appears like a tiny project has the future to turn into a massive, impactful alter, as We Believers’ founder and CCO Gustavo Lauria points out.

“If many craft breweries and big beer companies implement this technology, the making cost can drop and be quite competitive compared with the current plastic solution, while saving hundreds of thousands of marine lives,” he said in May. “It shows that through technology the little guys can point the finger at governments and big business to motivate alter that effects our world and the one we can leave for our children.”

Featured-Article-Edible-Six-Pack-Beer-Rings-Environment-Sea-Turtles-Fish-NewsIt may sound thoughtlistic, but a fewtimes it is the tiny businesses and the people who, by pushing and pushing and setting example after example, finally get the broader public, as well as governments and industries, to begin building alters. 3D printing has become so much a technology of the people lately, and while amazing turn it intoments in healthcare, aerospace and other primary industries have come of sizeable corporations, tiny beginups and ordinary makers have been responsible for only as much of the impact that 3D printing has presented.

It is a point I come back to again and again, but I consider e-NABLE to be the ultimate example of how people, armed with a 3D printing device and a caningness to assist others, can turn it into massive global alter, both individually and collectively. If a few makers can begin a project that snowballs into a fewthing that provides medical devices to thousands of people around the world, and so why can’t a 3D printed beehive or six-pack ring be the catalyst that ends up saving a species? Why can’t 3D printing save the world? Discuss additional in the 3D Printing & the Environment forum over at 3DPB.com.