Academic journal article Science and Children

3D Printing: The Greener Choice

Academic journal article Science and Children

3D Printing: The Greener Choice

Article excerpt

3D printing isn't just cheaper, it's also greener, says Michigan Technological University's Joshua Pearce.

Even Pearce, an aficionado of the make-it-yourself-and-save technology, was surprised at his study's results. It showed that making objects on a 3D printer uses less energy--and therefore releases less carbon dioxide--than producing them en masse in a factory and shipping them to a warehouse.

Most 3D printers for home use, like the RepRap used in this study, are about the size of microwave ovens. They work by melting filament, usually plastic, and depositing it layer by layer in a specific pattern. Free designs for thousands of products are available from outlets like Thingiverse.com.

Common sense would suggest that mass-producing plastic widgets would take less energy per unit than making them one at a time on a 3D printer. However, his group found it's actually greener to make things at home.

They conducted life-cycle impact analyses on three products: an orange juicer, a children's building block, and a waterspout. The cradle-to-gate analysis of energy use went from raw material extraction to one of two endpoints: entry into the United States for an item manufactured overseas or printing it a home on a 3D printer. Pearce's group found that making the items on a basic 3D printer took from 41% to 64% less energy than making them in a factory and shipping them to the United States. …

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