Why Do Some 3D Printers Use Biodegradable Materials to Create Models?

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Preserving the environment…

That has been the goal of many environmental organizations that have cropped up over the past 5 decades. Their struggle has not been easy as there are too many people and corporations that like the way industry is and has been traditionally run.

3D printing can aid the environmentalists in their fight against pollution as it can be used with biodegradable materials and not just hard to get rid of plastic. Long research papers have been written on this topic and to learn why some 3D printers use biodegradable materials just continue to read our article.

It goes through those long papers so you do not have to spend a lot of time researching the topic.

Why do some 3D printers use biodegradable materials?

For those people who have been alive since the 1970s, the environment has been a major concern for most of them. While some people like the way modern corporations continue in the traditional production model, there are those who would rather ease the destruction of the environment and work towards a more environmentally friendly way of doing things.

Thus the answer to the question why do 3D printers use biodegradable materials in its production of objects is a simple one. To protect the environment as it is the only one we have and will ever have.

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4 ways 3D printers help the environment

It isn’t just biodegradable materials that help 3D printers be so eco friendly. There are other benefits that come with these devices that help make the whole concept more environmentally sound. Here are some of those ways:

Uses fewer raw materialsThe amount of raw material used is less than traditional manufacturing methods saving more for future generations
Reduces distribution emissionsTo get the manufactured product to the next part of the chain different shipping or distribution methods are used. Almost all of those methods emit harmful toxins into the air. Printing on site reduces the need of those methods and cuts those emissions
Uses recycled materialsOne good aspect of 3D printing is that you can recycle old plastics and keep them from entering the landfills or oceans
Switch to biodegradable materialsThis helps keep the environment greener and prevents too much plastic waste that pollutes the oceans and nature. The material breaks down in nature and disappears eventually

The definitions of biodegradable and compostable

These are two terms that you may hear a lot these days. It helps to see how 3D printing using biodegradable materials really helps the environment.

  1. Biodegradable- an object that degrades over time in nature to a point where microorganisms can consume it and return the raw material back to the earth
  2. Compostable- this is where it breaks down like paper in the same time frame as paper into carbon dioxide, water and biomass.; plus, the material disappears completely in a compost pile and leaves no toxic residue behind. It is good for plants as fertilizer

4 aspects that hinder 3D green printing

Not everything is perfect and the reason you do not see more 3D printers using biodegradable material is because of these 4 aspects:

Support materialSome objects need supports to provide successful results. Often these supports are cut away and tossed in the trash
Lots of plastic wasteNot everyone is into recycling and many 3D printers do not use biodegradable materials. That material is then thrown into the garbage to go to the landfills etc.
3D printers still use a lot of energyIt is hard to be helpful to the environment when you are using a lot of energy that comes from the environment.
Toxic fumesThis is one of the drawbacks to using 3D printers as some of the materials release toxic fumes and particles into the air as they print

4 solutions to these barriers

There are ways to overcome those barriers and help 3D printers be more eco friendly. Here are just some options that can be implemented:

  1. Use biodegradable filaments- there are a lot of them on the market already and instead of picking up ABS or similar non biodegradable filaments buy PLA, HIPS, PVA and other similar filaments.
  2. Purchase a filament recycler- this handy accessory helps you recycle plastic materials and keep them from entering the environment in a non friendly manner.
  3. Don’t throw away filament leftovers- use them to create nice color designs. It may be more work but you are keeping plastic from the environment.
  4. Use or build an enclosure- this construction will keep the toxic fumes inside the printer area and away from your home’s environment and the atmosphere outside.

A filament quick comparison chart

Type of filamentProsConsCost
ABSRouch, easy to purchase non toxicNeeds high heat to melt, emits unpleasant fumes$20 to $50
PLABiodegradable, easy to work withObjects dissolve over time, rough texture$20 to $50
PVADegrades with water, easy to work withExpensive and emits toxic fumesGreater than $100
NylonTough material & cheapNeeds high heat to melt$18
HDPEDissolves easily, lightweightNeeds high heat levels$30
T Glass or PETTFood safe, glass like texture and lookSlower to print, needs heated platform to work right$30
Wood filamentLooks like woodTricky to use, needs sanding$60 to $100
Metal filamentLooks Like metal, attractiveExpensive and hard to use$75 to $120
Carbon fiber mixStrong and lightweightHard on extruders, also expensive$50 to $120
Flexible filamentRubber like characteristics, very flexiblePrinter adjustments required$50 to $120
Conductive filamentWorks well with electrical circuitsVery expensive and in experimental stage$70 for 100 grams

Some final words

Protecting the environment is important. Switching to biodegradable materials to use in your 3D printer is one way you can make a positive contribution to this effort. Just find the right ones for your project needs.

This way you also protect your family from harm and pollution as well as keep the environment healthy for all people and animals.