Tag Archives: Sustainability

Yale journal explores environmental and health impact of 3D printing technologies

As a bourgeoning technology with a world of potential, 3D printing is regularly referred to as the manufacturing technology of the future, and is hailed as having many environmental benefits over existing mass production processes.

And while some of its environmental advantages are difficult to deny—3D printing has, after all, opened up unprecedented possibilities for customized, local production—a new series of articles published in Yale’s Journal of Industrial Ecology suggest that the sustainable potential and environmental impact of 3D printing technologies are not quite as defined as many companies would like consumers to believe.

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Russian researchers develop new recyclable 3D printing-polymer out of biomass material

The use of recycled materials together with the mass customization and faster end-to-end cycle times that 3D printing enables promise to advance the incidence of the circular economy.


When it comes to 3D printing materials, you won’t come across a more popular choice than plastic – there are all sorts of plastics to choose from, and it’s also the cheapest of the 3D printing materials. However, plastic definitely has its issues – landfills around the world are filling up with plastics, and the material is depleting fossil feedstocks, as well as forming CO2 in production and combustion processes. A team of researchers with the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) in Moscow have developed a 3D printable polymer made entirely from biomass that negates these issues.

Additive manufacturing processes are typically better for the environment than other forms of manufacturing, but plastic waste is still a worldwide issue. Plastics are made up of a range of synthetic, or semi-synthetic, malleable organic materials, and many efforts have been made to use recycled plastic to 3D print objects like prosthetics, leaves that make up a floating Christmas treebee boxes, and supplies for astronauts in space.

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Using 3D-printing to recycle plastic

A Belgian start-up has been using 3D-printing technology to turn old plastic into sunglasses.

Using 3D-printing to recycle plastic

Car dashboards, plastic bottles and fridges, once set for the rubbish bin, are collected and given a new lease of life.

Only two small soda bottles are enough to make a pair.

The production process involves shredding the plastic and turning them into strings. These plastic wires are then fed into the 3D-printer, where they are melted and layered into the design.

Each part of the frame is printed separately and assembled by hand.

Founder Sebastiaan de Neubourg explained that one of the project’s aims is to help rebrand sustainability into a more approachable and “cool” term, while bringing awareness to the amount of plastic being wasted globally.

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NASA’s Refabricator recycling 3D printer makes space the place for green materials

Tooling around on the International Space Station. A 3D printed KOBALT wrench made by the Additive Manufacturing Facility. Photo via Made in Space/NASARobust and refrigerator-like, the ‘Refabricator’ is poised to lead NASA’s recycling initiative for astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Set to launch 2018, the machine is capable of crunching plastic parts back into raw materials, and 3D printing them anew as tools and spare parts.

Preparing for “space at a premium”

NASA has awarded approximately $750,000 to the Refabricator project, taken on by Seattle-based space technology company, Tethers Unlimited Inc.

Niki Werkheiser, manager of In-Space Manufacturing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center who will test the machine, comments “When we begin launching humans to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, space will be at a premium.”

“It simply won’t be feasible to send along replacement parts or tools for everything on the spacecraft, and resupplying from Earth is cost and time prohibitive. The Refabricator will be key in demonstrating a sustainable logistics model to fabricate, recycle, and reuse parts and waste materials.”

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Who needs the Paris Climate Accords when you have 3D printing?

Al Gore’s new “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” has him haranguing leaders who resist the Paris climate accords. Without stringent controls, he says, corporate greed will spew out carbon emissions and destroy the ecosystem. The only path to a sustainable world, he insists, lies in stepped-up government action.

That’s questionable on its face, partly because many companies have pledged to reduce emissions regardless of regulation. But the more important story is that new digital manufacturing technologies are going to substantially reduce pollution as a matter of course, whether companies wish it or not.

At the center of these technologies is 3D printing, which uses digital files to drive smaller, more flexible production lines than are economical with conventional manufacturing. 3D printing is still developing and is only now spreading to mass production. But in the next five to 10 years it should account for a sizable share of industry. As it matures, it will improve companies’ environmental performance in multiple ways.

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3D printing a sustainable future

George Brasher, MD of HP UK & Ireland, explains why 3D printing has the potential to significantly reduce the waste and emissions of manufacturing.

We are on the brink of a 3D printing revolution as it is fast shifting from being used for niche applications, such as developing prototypes or creating specialist parts, into the mainstream. According to PwC, 67 per cent of manufacturers are already using 3D printing in their production systems and this is set to grow exponentially with the global value of this technology predicted to reach $31.20bn by 2022.

This transformation in manufacturing brings with it many opportunities to develop a more sustainable model, by helping to reduce CO2 emissions, cut waste and allow businesses to develop more efficient processes and supply chains.

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ReFabDar – Using recycled plastic to deploy green supply chains

A great initiative: transform municipal waste plastic into plastic filament for use in 3D printing!  It lowers the cost of manufacture and brings designs and capability to where it can be of most value.

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Five of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers in 3D printing

While 3D printing is undoubted entering mainstream manufacture – and at rates that are faster than many realise – it is important to note that there continue to be challenges to be overcome.  This isn’t a surprise, after all all disruptive technologies do.  This article from Apple Rubber discusses some of the key ones.


3d printing challengesAccording to Wohlers Associates, the global 3D printing market is expected to reach $21 billion by 2020 — quadrupling its size in just four years. While 3D printing, also referred to as additive manufacturing, comes with many benefits, such as freedom of design, easy prototyping, customization and streamlined logistics, it also poses many challenges.

In order to fully leverage this transformational technology, we identified five 3D printing challenges that manufacturing leaders must understand.

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GLOBAL SCM Supply Chain—The next big winner from the sharing economy

The idea of the sharing economy has gained momentum in recent years, thanks to the success of brands like Uber and Airbnb. Both have generated impressive profits by adopting a collaborative approach to business; collectively, the companies are worth more than $75 billion. But while this mainstream success made the sharing economy a go-to business innovation tool, it can be said that supply chain is the original champion of collaborative working. Supply chain professionals are well-versed in managing an extensive network of partners in which each company works independently to deliver a final product. But the next step in the supply chain sharing economy is within co-managed collaboration, which will see partners share resources and strengths more broadly rather than in a linear fashion.SCM World attribution 5858616db123b

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New Adidas sneaker made from ocean plastic and developed with 3D printing goes on sale this month

It’s been a big week for shoes and 3D printing, as just yesterday New Balance released their (extremely) limited edition MS066 sneakers with 3D printed midsoles, and now Adidas has announced their innovative UltraBoost Uncaged Parley sneakers, made almost entirely from recycled ocean plastic and which owe much of their development to 3D printing technologies.

Just a year ago, Adidas teamed up with Parley, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about ocean pollution and plastic waste, to design a shoe that could be made from recycled ocean plastic. The result of that experiment was an impressive footwear specimen, which combined recycled plastic materials and Adidas’ 3D printed Futurecraft midsole. While the shoes marked a step forwards for sustainable footwear, they were not exactly retail ready, and were more significant as a concept shoe.

Now, however, Adidas and Parley have moved forwards once more with the unveiling of their UltraBoost Uncaged Parley sneakers, which go on sale next month and will be retailing for $200 a pair. Initially, Adidas will be releasing 7,000 pairs of the new recycled sneaker, but reportedly hope to have over a million pairs available within the next year or so.

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