1 of 3
Wind Powered 3D Prints
Working together with 3D Hubs’ Copenhagen mayor Christian Behrens-Thomsen 3D Hubs placed two 3D printers at the top of a windmill to run an entire 3D print purely from the power generated by the airstream.
2 of 3
3D Systems EKOCYCLE Cube
3D Systems launched the EKOCYCLE, a printer with zero waste that uses cartridges made in part from recycled plastic bottles.
3 of 3
3D Printed Homes
An ambitious project from WinSum earlier this year saw 10 homes 3D printed in just 24 hours in Shanghai.
Sustainability is a central priority for various industries and arguably the world in general. We do not have limitless resources and ways of reducing negative human impact are high on the global agenda. A quick look at some of today’s news stories on the topic brings up instances ranging from retail to agriculture, endeavouring to make a sustainable future a reality.
Interestingly for us, the 3D printing industry is sustainable by nature. Makers and manufacturers are keen to discuss and discover how 3D printing could pave the way to a healthier industry of sustainable design and production.
Although the technology may have not taken over the production line yet, some of the benefits of 3D printing are already clear. Straight away, 3D printing cuts down on material waste, prototyping and product transportation. By producing products on demand, there is no need for a massive product inventory, already reducing costs and wasted material.
Then there’s product optimisation meaning that only the necessary amount of material is used, which has a positive impact on material use but maintains the same quality of traditionally manufactured products.
Big players in the industry are flying the flag for the sustainable properties 3D printing offers.
3D Systems, a global leader in 3D printing, are focused on making their machines and materials as sustainable as possible with minimum environmental impact. Powders, resins and acrylics are engineered to reduce waste with the two most popular materials in their range possessing the ability to be shredded for recycling or simply biodegradable. Earlier this year they launched the EKOCYCLE Cube 3D, a machine with uses cartridges made in part from post-consumer recycled plastic bottle.
They also have a consumer recycling system in place where customers can recycle empty cartridges via them either by post or at various meet ups worldwide.
"Our approach to sustainability is straightforward,” says Avi Reichental, President and CEO of 3D Systems It's about leadership and continued innovation. At 3D Systems we believe sustainability should be a way of doing business."
LPW Technology has been at the forefront of laser deposition solutions in the UK since 2007. Producing metal powders for additive manufacturing, they are committed to analysing the benefits of materials and bettering the technology for future applications.
Jo-Ann Smith at LPW Technology recently told us: “Understanding the behaviour of metal powders in AM machines is increasingly vital for the precisely controlled production of sophisticated, functional components. Identifying which powder properties control AM performance supports both the optimisation of metal powders for specific applications, and the reliable evaluation of used powders for further processing. “
“Powder reuse is essential for the long-term sustainability of the industry. The industry had long used traditional testing techniques, but these have inherent limitations in providing relevant data for AM. Powder testing is a critical part of what LPW do, both in the development of new powders and as a service for customers looking to optimise existing AM processes.”
Talk of a sustainable future is not just about looking ahead and imagining. Products that offer an alternative method of production are being manufactured right now using additive manufacturing processes. WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co completed a project earlier this year to print 10 houses in just 24 hours. Using recycled materials the experiment showed how the technology could be used to quickly produce sustainable and affordable homes for future generations.
Likewise, just last month (August) 3D Hubs launched an ambitious plan to use wind power to drive two 3D printers. Both Ultimaker machines were set up on top of a wind farm to utilise clean energy from the turbines and produce a print run. Projects like this show how figures in the industry are continuing to come up with innovative ways to experiment and improve the technology to enable a cleaner future.
Right now the biggest impact 3D printing is having on manufacturing is reducing the lengthy processes in the supply chain. The transportation of products has been revolutionised by the advent of the technology cutting emissions down as localised printing eliminates the need for producing and shipping products back and forth for testing and approving. Companies can manufacture their own finalised products rather than prototypes keeping the manufacturing process compact and more efficient.