Have you always wanted a 3-D printer but never really had a justification for the investment? Well, a study done by Michigan technological University has your back. It shows that in many cases 3-D printing products are more environmentally friendly than mass production.
This result even surprised those conducting the analysis, as it’s generally speaking more energy efficient to melt plastic and other materials in large batches instead of on an individual item basis.
With three example plastic products they went over the entire production process, from raw material extraction to the final product. Mass production also includes shipping of products from overseas factories. This means much of the energy, and therefore CO2, savings of a 3Dprinter come from the reduced need to ship items.
This resulted in energy savings of between 41 and 62 percent. This is certainly significant, considering all the plastic crap we use. 3-D printing also produces no waste and certain items can be made hollow to save on resources, which would not be possible with traditional fabrication.
The researchers also examined what would happen if the 3-D printer was solar powered, which just further increased the environmental friendliness. So 3-D printing may seem a little trendy and overhyped, but it really does have huge implications for how we consume products.
This text is from our blogger Qdragon’s YouTube channel Brainstorm, about science news. Watch the latest version below, also about DEET and harvesting on salty soils:
Christian Baechler, Matthew DeVuono, Joshua M. Pearce (2013). Distributed recycling of waste polymer into RepRap feedstock Rapid Prototyping Journal DOI: 10.1108/13552541311302978
Photo: Flickr, Shapeways