Once 3D printing becomes as affordable as the inkjet or laser printers that we have today, does it bode good or bad news for the environment? Most people might think that the ability to print actual objects might mean the accumulation of more trinkets in the household, which will not do the environment any good at all.
On the other hand, the fact that you don’t have to drive all the way to the supermarket to buy a personalized mug as a gift for a friend is one way that 3D printing helps the environment. Read on to find out about the pros and cons of 3D printing from an environmental aspect.
Pros and Cons of 3D Printing
First, what are the plus points of 3D printing? As you may already know, 3D printers are specialized printers which have actual three dimensional objects as an output. No matter how intricate the design is, you can recreate that object through a 3D printer once the design has been input on a 3D printing software. You can make the measurements and details so specific, that you can use 3D printing to replicate out-of-stock screws, auto parts, etc.
This is one of the plus points of 3D printing. If you have a lawnmower, for example, which should be working if not for a screw cap that you cannot seem to find a replacement for, you can reproduce it through 3D printing. As a result, you would not have to replace the entire lawnmower – simply produce the needed part through 3D printing.
Another benefit of 3D printing is that the need to drive around places just to get an object that you need will be greatly reduced. Fewer raw materials is wasted, it’s easier to recycle, most products have longer lifespans and needless manufacturing is eliminated.
On the other hand, having easy access to 3D printing might tempt those who like experimenting to waste their 3D prints on items which are totally unusable. If you must experiment, make sure that your 3D printer is using biodegradable material for your design aspirations to be more eco-friendly.
The other downsides of 3D printing include its heavy reliance on plastic as raw materials; the possibility of wastefulness if every home has access to a 3D printer; its being energy inefficient; and possibly toxic fumes from hot plastic melting.
The Verdict: Is 3D Printing Good or Bad for the Environment?
Being aware of the downsides of 3D printing will make users more aware of its impact to the environment. If you have a 3D printer and you’re aware that your design experiments will end up as waste, you might as well use biodegradable material while you’re at it. You should also make sure that your design is perfect before actually hitting the 3D print button.
The good news is that initial studies do show that generally, making things at home using a 3D printer uses less energy than producing them in a factory and shipping to a warehouse. As a consumer it’s entirely up to you to minimize the negative effects of 3D printing to the environment once you’re able to buy one for your home or office.
This article is written by Sarah Del Rosario.