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Is 3D Printing Environmentally Friendly?
3D printing’s total impact on the environment is inconclusive, but several aspects can be weighed to determine that this technology is a step in the right direction for the environment. Despite not being energy efficient and other drawbacks, 3D printing can prove to be more environmentally beneficial as it becomes more advanced and widespread.
In this article, we’ll discuss how 3D printing can both hinder and help the environment, its standing overall for eco-friendliness, and steps you can take to make your 3D prints better for the environment. For clarity, we will be discussing 3D printing as it pertains to the industrial manufacturing level.
Harmful Aspects of 3D Printing
As with any modern manufacturing technology, 3D printing has several side effects that are less than ideal for maintaining a healthy environment.
Higher Electricity Usage
Like other manufacturing methods, 3D printers use electricity to function. However, due to its unique additive process, 3D printing takes much longer to complete one part than traditional methods, such as injection molding or machining. This means that more electricity is used per part with 3D printing, and the same amount of electricity used could make dozens of the same part via other methods in the same time. Electricity usage may also be increased if the material being printed requires a higher melting temperature since the printer must be able to reach and maintain that elevated temperature for the entire duration of the print.
Because 3D printing’s primary materials are plastics, it may be difficult to imagine that 3D printing can be eco-friendly at all. For this reason, it is important to understand that different classes of plastics vary in their recyclability.