Are 3D Printers Environmentally Friendly?

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The environment is big…

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How to Get Started with a 3D Printer

It is the only one we have and protecting it is a priority. Many environmentalists have taken large steps to preserve the environment and 3D printing may be seen as one of those steps. It also may be seen as harmful to the environment.

It is all in your perspective and a close examination of the issues surrounding 3D printing is warranted. To figure out where you stand on this subject, just continue to read our article.

Our article points out the good and the bad where 3D printing and the environment stand. Protecting the environment is a good thing.

The pros & cons of 3D printing and the environment

Every industry makes different contributions to the environment. While cars, trains and buses help transport more people and help the environment by cutting pollution, etc. Those forms of transportation also make harmful contributions to the environment.

Industries like 3D printing are a double edged sword and have both positive and negative contributions that either help or hurt the environment. First the good news.

Pros:

  1. Cuts waste- plastic waste is a problem these days and 3D printing makes a reduction in that total
  2. Cuts transportation emissions- when you print your own tools, car parts and other items, you reduce the amount of time your vehicle produces harmful environmental emissions
  3. Go solar- right now most printers are run off of renewable electrical sources but those sources need to be built and that construction can harm the environment. Go solar or use wind power to help cut down the harm to the environment
  4. Recycle- there are some printers that print using old waste materials. That reduces the content of the landfills and other areas of the world
  5. Makes efficient use of raw materials- the more efficiently raw materials are used, the longer the last and keep the environment in a healthy situation

Cons:

  1. Creates a reliance on plastic- just when the environmentalists are trying to get rid of plastic, 3D printing creates more which eventually ends up in the landfills and other locations of the world
  2. Not all plastic is biodegradable- PLA is but ABS is not creating another environmental hazard
  3. Emits harmful emissions- while you are cutting down on those missions vehicles make, 3D printers add more to the air
  4. Use a lot of electricity- some printers can consume a lot of energy when working. This cuts down the supply and creates a demand for new dams and other electrical energy providers
  5. Creates waste- this can be done through user error, machine glitches, faulty computer files and even a bump of the table. Then there are the supports that may not be used more than once. All this adds up to a lot of waste and not good for the environment

Are 3D printers environmentally friendly?

This is a yes and no answer question that needs to see the whole picture. Yes, they can be as they do reduce elements in industry and manufacturing that are harmful to the environment.

When large companies can manufacture their own parts they spare the world a lot of smoke stack emissions. That is just one example where 3D printers help the environment.

The negatives can be overcome by implementing different strategies that collect the plastic waste and either reuse it or send it to a recycling plant. As for the fumes, there are ways to capture them before letting harmful emissions enter the atmosphere. They are already doing this with other technology so it should be adapted for 3D printers.

There are always ways to defeat the non environmental friendly aspects of any product if people spend more time on that problem.

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Three environmentally friendly filaments

Just changing the products you use can make a great contribution to the environment and keep it healthy. Here are 3 changes you can make:

NumberItemExplanation
1.ALGA filamentMade from algae and is similar to PLA which means it should degrade when in the environment
2. OMNI filamentThis is a non toxic, compostable and environmentally sustainable product that replaces ABS
3.DURA filamentNo toxic fumes are emitted from this product and it is tough as well able to endure lots of rough treatment. Uses a lower heat setting so it may help prevent fires
4.Enviro filamentIt is made from ABS but it is injected with a bacteria that breaks down the plastic and comes on a spool made from recycled cardboard
5.FilabotNot a filament made to break down in the environment but a tool to help you at home to recycle old plastic or bad prints


Other filament products to check out for environmentally friendly production come from the following brands and they are worth the time to explore their product lines

  1. SainSmart
  2. 3D Solutech
  3. eSun
  4. Hatchbox

The research is ongoing and there may be some bugs in the system still but different companies are making the effort to keep 3D printing environmentally friendly. It just takes some time and during the waiting process, make sure to print when you need to and not just items that have no use after they are made.

Some final words

It doesn’t matter what product is invented. There will always be some impact on the environment. Even those environmentally friendly products still need assembly lines, use petroleum products, spare parts, buildings and so on. All of these items need to be built somewhere.

It may be the only environment around but unless the world returns to the prehistoric days, it will never be fully safe or protected from human activity. The best advice that can be given is to do your best to be responsible environmentally and make the right choices.

Try to cut down on waste, recycle as much as possible and make sure you use your 3D printer in a way that does not create more plastic waste that can’t be re-used. Err on the side of caution so you have the benefits of the 3D printer and not the negatives.

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