Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Evaluation of Potential Fair Trade Standards for an Ethical 3-D Printing Filament

Academic journal article Journal of Sustainable Development

Evaluation of Potential Fair Trade Standards for an Ethical 3-D Printing Filament

Article excerpt

Abstract

Following the rapid rise of distributed additive manufacturing with 3-D printing has come the technical development of filament extruders and recyclebots, which can turn both virgin polymer pellets and post-consumer shredded plastic into 3-D filament. Similar to the solutions proposed for other forms of ethical manufacturing, it is possible to consider a form of ethical 3-D printer filament distribution being developed. There is a market opportunity for producing this ethical 3-D printer filament, which is addressed in this paper by developing an "ethical product standard" for 3-D filament based upon a combination of existing fair-trade standards and technical and life cycle analysis of recycled filament production and 3-D printing manufacturing. These standards apply to businesses that can enable the economic development of waste pickers and include i) minimum pricing, ii) fair trade premium, iii) labor standards, iv) environmental and technical standards, v) health and safety standards, and vi) social standards including those that cover discrimination, harassment, freedom of association, collective bargaining and discipline.

Keywords: 3-D printing, filament, ethical product standards, fair trade standards, distributed manufacturing

1. Introduction

Recent developments in additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, have made distributed manufacturing of high-value products for household use in any country in the world technically viable (Pearce, et al., 2010). In addition, recent work has shown home-based 3-D printing is economically attractive, enabling individuals to fabricate an exponentially growing list of free and open-source designs of products to meet their own needs (Wittbrodt, et al., 2013). Preliminary analysis also indicates distributed manufacturing with 3-D printing could reduce the environmental impact attributed to manufacturing household goods primarily by reducing transportation related embodied energy, but also by reducing the quantity of material used (Kreiger, et al., 2013; Kreiger and Pearce, 2013a). Recent sales figures in the developed world indicate that personalized or desktop manufacturing with 3-D printers is a growing trend (Economist, 2012; Blua, 2013; Make, 2013). A wide range of products can be produced by these low-cost desktop 3-D printers (Wittbrodt, et al., 2013; Martens et al., 2011). Open-source self-replicating rapid prototypers (or RepRaps) enable particularly fast scaling of 3-D printing technology to reach communities in the developing world (Pearce, et al., 2010), because RepRaps can manufacture over 50% of their own components (excluding fasteners). RepRaps are a low cost and easily repairable 3-D printer that can be used for both self upgrades, reprodution and fabricating replacement parts for low costs (Jones, et al., 2011). The cost of the printers themselves has already been shown to be an economically advantageous investment for scientific laboratories, schools and now middle-class households (Pearce, 2012; 2014; Anzalone, et al, 2013; Zhang, et al., 2013; Wittbrodt, et al., 2013). This economic feasibility exists despite highly marked-up costs of commercial 3-D printing filament (Baecheler, et al. 2013). However, if there is the potential to change the way products are manufactured following this distributed model, the same issues that arise for the ethical manufacturing of other products arises for the manufacturing of the raw material or 3-D printing filament (Litvinoff & Madeley, 2007; McMurtry, 2009; Baradaran & Barclay, 2011; Marcovitz, 2011; Bacon, 2005; Raynolds & Ngcwangu, 2010; Nicholls & Opal, 2004; Becchetti, 2008; Shreck, 2005; Valkila & Nygren, 2010; Low & Davenport, 2005; McDonagh, 2002; Adriani & Becchetti, 2002; Ehrenberg, 1995; Hilowitz, 1997; Jaffee, 2007). Similar to the solutions proposed for other forms of ethical manufacturing, it is possible to consider a form of ethical 3-D printer filament distribution being developed. …

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