The 3D printer is a versatile piece of technology used to convert digital data CAD and turn them into three-dimensional models. Given current ecological concerns and the challenge to the world’s environment, the big question for 3D printers is, ‘are they environmentally friendly?’
The 3D printer produces the prototype that, in turn, can be constructed out of waste materials. These products typically comprise such things as recycled plastic or metal, which can be pulverised into much more eco-friendly materials. If the prototype, made out of the recycled/pulverised materials, is fit for purpose it can be made ready for mass production.
The ability to 3D print objects has also helped overcome the problem of what to do with waste glass. The technology allows glass objects to be printed, yet again emphasising just how environmentally friendly the 3D printer is.
The ability to print items from waste products offers industry great potential, but is there a market for the 3D printer in the home? Imagine being able to recycle plastic, glass and other waste materials into household consumables, at home, thanks to 3D printing technology in every house. The environmental benefit appears obvious, but is it practical?
The first drawback, for most households, would be the cost. While, for many people, the cost of buying standard printers, along with their essential consumables, such as cartridges, is not prohibitive; unfortunately, the 3D variety is very expensive. Traditional printers can be purchased for under $150, while the cheapest 3D home variety costs several hundred.
In addition to the cost of purchasing a 3D printer, the cost of powering them will have to be taken into account. If they are to become household items, then the potential savings in electricity costs will have to be properly balanced.
There is also the technical knowledge required to use 3D print technology. Professionals who are well versed in the technology are increasingly using 3D printers, but how many people living in suburbia have that knowledge?
There is no doubting the 3D printer’s eco-friendly credentials, but until market forces bring a drop in prices and a generation emerges with the necessary technical knowledge, it may be some time before these printers become a standard feature in the home.