In a special issue of Yale’s Journal of Industrial Ecology, 3D printing is addressed with regard to its impact for the environment.
This is no more a secret, the 3D technology is known as a growing manufacturing technology which presents a great number of advantages for local production. However, its environmental impact is not always clearly stated for all the stakeholders.
For Reid Lifset, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Industrial Ecology and co-author of the article, “the research in this issue shows that it is too early to label 3D printing as the path to sustainable manufacturing. We need to know much more about the material footprints, energy consumption in production, process emissions, and especially the linkages and alignments between the various stages in the production process.”
According to this article, 3D printing technologies are “inherently” environmental. For researchers, by producing locally, we de facto reduce emissions from transport. Furthermore, one of the big advantage is that there is “zero waste” during the manufacturing.
However, it must be said that the impact environmental is much more complex and needs further analysis. For now though, the “pattern of usage”, machine configurations, and materials being used are some of the main elements that must be taken into consideration in this analysis.
“This special issue demonstrates the capability of industrial ecology to reveal important and often overlooked aspects of new technologies,” added Indy Burke, Dean of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “If we are to realize the environmental potential of 3D printing, we need to know where the challenges and the leverage points lie.”
Other interesting issues tackled in the article are the life cycle assessments of 3D printing processes and products; the energy consumption of additive manufacturing systems; the health risks of 3D printing and many more.
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