Want To Save the World? Try 3D Printing

What makes 3D printing even cooler than printing personalized accessories like keychains and useful tools like phone charging docks is its potential to save the environment. First, 3D printing is an additive technology, meaning that it’ll only print as much material as needed for a product layer by layer, so very little if any goes to waste. In addition, 3D printed products are usually lighter in weight than their traditional counterparts, which saves money and reduces fuel consumption during shipping. Also, according to Eric Masanet, associate professor in the Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Chemical and Biological Engineering at Northwestern University, using 3D printed metal parts can reduce the weight of an aircraft by up to 7%. This can help cut back carbon emission and save customers money.  Another set of statistics provided by the Department of Energy is that 3D printing uses up to 50% less energy when compared to conventional mass manufacturing. These are just some of the benefits of 3D printing technology. Taking a closer look, we can see that there are numerous groups out there in different parts of the world striving to use this technology to improve environmental sustainability, AKA saving the world. Below, I will share the two examples that I personally believe are the most interesting ideas pertaining to this subject.


Waste pollution like this often seen in cities struggling with poverty

Cities around the world, especially those that are becoming more urbanized, create a shocking amount of plastic waste every day. This waste not only affects the natural habitat on land, but oftentimes it also eventually become ocean plastic. To solve this problem, the Plastic Bank created a Blockchain digital currency & exchange platform to encourage the collection of plastic waste. It’s the world’s first process to monetize plastic waste. The company launched 3D printing plastic repurposing centers, especially in areas where there is an abundant of waste and poverty, which can take any mixed plastic and make them available for reuse. When citizens bring collected plastic waste to these centers, they could exchange them for monetary rewards. Learn more about this cool “social plastic” movement by watching this short video below:

Turning our focus to the sea, there’s a growing amount of plastic wastes in the marine environment caused by pollution, microbeads from personal care products like soap and toothpaste, and even debris generated by the tsunami. A UK startup company called The Fishy Filaments aims to address this issue by providing one particular solution–turning old fishing nets into 3D printing filaments. This way, fewer nets will be going to landfills (which there aren’t a lot left) and it’ll prevent fishing nets from breaking down into microplastic which could be ingested by fish and birds. Founder of Fishy Filaments, Ian Falconer, believes that fishing nets are great for recycling into filament since they’re mostly made out of Nylon 6 which is used in 3D printing. This avoids extra processing which could harm the environment. The startup has proven the technology and process, and is now on its way to raise £5,000 ($6,178) through crowdfunding to purchase more advanced equipment to increase the efficiency, taking this project to the next level and making the business work.

Image result for fishy filaments

These are just some of the initiatives people have taken to improve our environment with the power of 3D printing. Hopefully these ideas will encourage each of us to take action, whether directly participating or indirectly supporting these movements. Or even better, coming up with cool ideas of our own!


Fishy Filaments: https://fishyfilaments.com/

New Data Shows That 3D Printed Components Could Cut Aircraft Weight By 7 Percent: https://3dprint.com/71279/3d-print-aircraft-weight/

Department of Energy: https://energy.gov/articles/how-3d-printers-work

The Plastic Bank: http://plasticbank.org/