As we move into 2023, nearly every business is asking themselves how they become more sustainable. 70% of consumers said they would pay more for environmentally responsible brands. (IBM). 3D printing already is less harmful than traditional manufacturing as the process adds material rather than subtracting it, leaving less wastage.
According to a European Commission study, by 2050 additive manufacturing could save up to 90% of raw materials needed for manufacturing. So, how is 3D printing already sustainable & becoming more sustainable as we try to move towards a greener planet?
Designing CAD files more efficiently and opting to use 3D printing over traditional manufacturing methods means that parts that originally had to be made separately, can be made as one. This is because 3D printing machines can achieve complex geometries that no other manufacturing methods can. Fewer machines used, material and reduced time equals fewer emissions.
On-demand 3D Prints
Printing parts on demand means that they are only printed as and when needed, rather than wasting energy creating additional inventory that might not be needed. More 3D printing businesses are offering on-demand print services which are saving customers money. This is a forward-thinking, sustainable way of manufacturing parts that more businesses should opt for in the future.
Repairing not discarding
As nearly anything can be 3D printed, discontinued products can have parts created to repair them which saves them from being thrown away and left to landfill. Less scrap is better for the environment. If more people choose to repair products rather than get rid of them, this would be better. 3D printing requires a CAD file of a damaged part and can print to the exact specification due to the range of materials with different properties that are available.
In recent years, 3D printing has been introduced to eco-friendly materials such as PLA. PLA is a cornstarch-based material that is non-toxic and can be used in most 3D printers. This material is bio-degradable, unlike ABS materials. These types of bio-based materials are suitable and can be used for SLS, MJF & FDM technologies.
Recycling 3D printed materials
Using specialist machines means that plastics that are no longer in use can be turned into 3D filaments that can be used within a 3D printer. Machines work by crushing the plastics, heating and extruding the material into the shape of filament. This is then wound back up to be ready to use within a 3D printing machine.
Although this isn’t too common at the moment, it is a big opportunity within the market for waste plastics to be re-purposed.
Project Seafood is a project based on using beach plastic waste to recycle into 3D printing material. Jennifer Gadient & Fabian Wyss turned their van into a home as they headed to the Mediterranean shores. They acquired a 3D printer, collected plastic litter from the beach and shredded each item several times to be turned into filaments by using an extruder that powered the printing process.
This is a great example of how plastics discarded by tourists & waste thrown carelessly into the sea can be recycled and reduced.
Sustainability in 3D printing
Sustainability in 3D printing is going to be a prime factor this year, every business is looking for ways to go greener and taking small steps is still progress. With government targets within different industries to reach net zero, this also is a nudge that we should all be looking for ways to become more circular and sustainable in our processes.
Repurposing SLS nylon powder, making sure our machines are building as much as possible within a single build rather than making multiple builds and ensuring our own personal office habits with recycling are up to scratch are just a few ways that AME-3D is trying to become more sustainable.