What is “Green 3D printing”

What is 3D printing?

3D is also known as additive manufacturing. It is a process in which one can create an object using a three-dimensional model. The digital model of an object is converted into its physical form through layers and layers of materials. 3D printing is a technology that provides freedom to its users in terms of innovative designs as it reduces prohibitive costs. Currently, the industry is not just restricted to industrial prototyping and has expanded to small-scale industries and individuals as well.

3D printing vs traditional manufacturing companies in terms of environment degradation

3D printing allows users to create complex designs within hours and hence reduces the length of the prototyping process. One can print strong, durable, and lightweight parts in a short amount of time. It is cost-effective and most importantly helps minimize wastage. Traditional manufacturing companies usually produce materials from large pieces of non-recyclable products. 3D printing also improves fuel efficiency as it prints lightweight 3D parts. Fashion and automobile industries have benefitted from 3D printing as the materials can be reused. For example:

  • Sports giant Adidas recently used recycled fishing nets to 3D print midsoles.
  • Ford uses around 1.2 billion recycled plastic bottles to manufacture parts to help improve vehicle aerodynamics. It also helps reduces cabin noises in its vehicles.

Ways to make 3D printing more sustainable

3D printing is not perfectly “green”. It does have some issues that could contribute to the degradation of the environment. However, one can overcome these challenges easily. Makers can practice sustainability in the following ways:

  1. Using biodegradable or compostable filament.

One must also try to reduce the usage of support materials as much as possible as they are not extremely necessary for a successful design. If you have no other choice but to use a support material it is best to turn towards a water-soluble material. Polyvinyl Alcohols dissolve when it comes in contact with water and therefore helps in reducing waste. High Impact Polystyrene is another good candidate for a support material as it dissolves when exposed to Limonene Solution. Willow Flex is a popular compostable filament that follows the EU and USA’s compostability protocol. Recycled potato chip bags and milk cartons are good contenders as well. The best way to recycle filament is a filament recycler.

  1. Purchase a filament recycler.

These recyclers can grind up household plastic waste and use them as recyclers. It is an ecological way of reusing scrap or failed prints as well as bits of filaments that don’t have much use otherwise.

  1. Create something colorful.

One can use leftover filaments to create multi-colored projects.

How 3D printing is helping the coral reefs.

Researchers from Cambridge University and the University of California, San Diego have recently come up with a solution for the steady depletion coral reefs. They have 3D structures that resemble coral reefs.

Due to global warming, ocean temperatures have increased exponentially. This has resulted in marine heatwaves which in turn have affected the corals. The coral reefs are sensitive to temperature changes and are dying due to it. The depletion of the coral reefs due to the marine heatwaves is called ‘coral bleaching’. The 3D printed structures have been designed in such a way that they can grow a dense population of microscopic algae. These 3D printed coral reefs aim to prevent extinction and promote rehabilitation. Coral reefs are responsible for fostering a vibrant ecosystem and also play a massive role in preventing erosions along coastlines. These 3D printed reefs support baby corals and provide them a space to grow in. After a while, the biodegradable materials decay, the coral reefs continue to grow and flourish. The reefs also provide a spawning ground for other species who are dependent on the reefs for survival.


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