Sustainability & 3D Printing – Navigating the Intersection
Two of the most commonly heard topics, not only in industry but now in day-to-day life: 3D Printing and Sustainability. It seems that these worlds are simultaneously entering a similarly rapid expansion – and in this blog we’ll be discussing the intersection of the two.
This intersection is all about how each 3D Printing and sustainability can further develop and enhance each others growth. Sustainability being the ability to maintain an environment at a certain rate or level and to do no further harm, presents us with a challenge. 3D Printing boasts many new ways of participating in that challenge. Conversely, and rather as a result of this match, Sustainability requirements have encouraged a growth direction for 3D Printing which has seen enormous investment and thus great innovation has followed.
Sustainability in almost any sector now, is no longer ‘forward thinking’ but fast beoming absolutely mandatory. There’s a unique competitive edge that can be achived by considering a company’s sustainable reputation and implementing the necessary changes.
Furthermore, with the right tools, beyond a 3D printer and some environmental awreness, true innovation can exist. Read on to find out more.
So what is this participation and what are the significant applications right now? And how can you stay ahead of effective sustainable 3D printing practices?
Environmental Benefits of 3D Printing
Manufacturing has been a huge contributor to many environmental problems we face. Our rapidly consuming culture and availability of cheap materials like plastic are a recipe for great damage. In recent years, as awareness of threats to the environment has grown, the manufacturing industries have come under substantial scrutiny. From Marine and automotive manufacturing to fashion and packaging, traditional methods of manufacture produce too much waste; use far too much fuel and use, waste and pollute an unsustainable amount of water (to name just a few issues). 3D printing has answers to many of these issues, some of the most significant listed below:
Speaking generally, here are the main environmental benefits we have come to know of the 3D printing industry.
1 – Far less Waste
2 – More Efficient Prototyping
3 – Little to no Water Use
4 – Reduced Shipping
5 – Bespoke component Manufacturing
6 – Easily repairable parts and products
7 – Compatibility with Biomaterials
These benefits, especially when combined, create a powerful encouragement for best practice. Depending on your use case, with the right awareness and opportunities, you could move into being ahead of the curve of innovation in your field.
A Practical look at Sustainability in Manufacturing
As mentioned in the list above, 3D printed products or components will create less waste – the additive nature of the process means you’re not just utilising some of the orginal material, conversely you’re using almost all of it for the purpose – no offcuts means greatly reduced waste!
This principle of reducing waste is being adopted by many, in differnet ways.
Using the right materials can put you in a fantastic position for your own sustainability goals as well as in emerging markets. Bioplastics made from dissused plant matter and others engineered to be completely and quickly biodegradable are gaining significant attention at the moment. These very intetional material products aim to replace ‘traditional’ plastics used in packaging and non-permenant products.
In a quite seperate direction to demonstrate how material use can affect your impact, another effective way to manufacture your products more sustainably is by reinforcing with carbon fiber, for example. This is a great way to increase strength while decreasing weight. This is something that the bicycle and automotive industries have been utilising for many years now using different techniques. Printing strong yet lightweight components/whole products is something we really encourage and advocate for. The strength of a product not only enhances its reliability, but of course makes for a greater longeivity of a product, thus further reducing waste. Decreasing weight of a product or of parts will also simply decrease shipping load, using less fuel – not to mention a lighter product in many/most cases enhances a user’s experience.
The Noztek Gamechangers
But sustainability in 3D printing isn’t just about materials and the printing process itself. There are supporting processes that often get oerlooked, which can greatly improve the efficiency and in particular, they can significantly reduce waste.
The Noztek Pelletiser is a profoundly versatile machine which lends itself to sustainable practices as well as opening up possibilities for projects otherwise unachievable. And all within a very compact and easy to use desktop product. reducing waste, reinforcing with lighter and stronger materials, more efficient experimentation and prototyping with biomaterials… The list goes on and in the spirit of innovation, we encourage our customers to feed back to us how their Pelletiser is enhancing their processes.
Noztek’s most recent offering is a sister company called Additive Alchemy. Additive Alchemy is a robotic 3D printing service from experts in extrusion. Using our fully-kitted out facility, we use the most up to date Noztek machines to mix exotic and experimental materials for you, and print using our bespoke customised robotic arm printer.
In such a fast-paced industry with plenty of financial backing, there’s a lot of exciting opportunity ahead – and plenty of that opportunity to go around. With the upward spin of 3D Printing combined with the measure of sustainability, it’s going to take creativity and true innovation to be in the game, so get experimenting with the right tools and equipment – something we can definitely help with!
Whichever sector you’re working in or have hobbies around, now is a very exciting time with many possibilities, to really think about how to integrate sustainability and take a big leap forward in the market.