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Save The World
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How 3D printing could save the world
The Climate Desk, a journalistic collaboration dedicated to exploring the impact—human, environmental, economic, political—of a changing climate, has released their latest video and called ‘3D Printing: Secret Weapon Against Climate Change?’
In the video, the basics of 3D printing are discussed alongside the potential benefits it has to carbon emissions. According to the Department of Energy additive manufacturing (AM) uses 50% less energy and 90% less material than traditional manufacturing processes, which produce 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gasses a year.
Sportswear giants Nike and New Balance recently announced their respective moves into the additive manufacturing process but many conglomerates have been using the technology for years. An article on USA Today confirms car manufacturers Ford as one of those, "We're building more and more parts every day using this process," Harold Sears, a technical expert in rapid manufacturing at Ford's design facility in Dearborn, Mich. told USA Today "For any engineer using (prototype) models to develop, this is the way to do it. Most large companies are now doing things this way."
The Climate Desk video doesn’t just stop at the manufacturing process it also explores the ways 3D printing could help out in a disaster, “Solutions and technologies that are developed on the back conflict are often applicable to disasters” says Caitlin Werrel of The Center of Climate and Security. Werrel is referring to US Army unit Rapid Equipping Force’s (REF) Expeditionary Lab, a mobile 3D printing unit that could be deployed to the frontline in order to equip soldiers with their needs immediately. This could also be applied on the frontline of natural disasters to give scientists and rescue workers the tools they need instantaneously.
We’ve seen in the news today that scientists at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC) are developing 3D printed Octopus like suckers for robots to enable them to manipulate objects in unstructured and contaminated environments. The self-sealing suction cup prototypes are currently printed on a multi-material 3D printer and could be deployed in a variety of disaster scenarios…
“When something like Fukushima (Nuclear plant damaged during Japanese Tsunami 2011) happens, it would be very useful if the robots that are sent in could perform some sort of manipulation activity like closing a valve, recovering an object or operating a tool in a contaminated area,” Chad Kessens a robotic manipulation researcher at ARL said. “Even opening a door or a hatch could allow the robot to better observe what’s going on inside the reactor while eliminating the risk of exposing people to radiation.”
Kessens collaborated with Brad Ruprecht’s team at ECBC to create the suction cups “What I loved about the project is Chad came to ECBC first and foremost because we had the multi-material machine, and he leveraged that to get a working model right off of the 3D printer. It has levers and springs and everything else needed to be a working prototype, and it’s worked very well for him. He’s received a lot of good data from it and is definitely moving forward with his designs.”
So, with the carbon footprint reducing properties coupled with the ability to design new, life-saving technology, 3D printing really could save the world!