3D Printing is Greener
Kyle Maxey posted on October 07, 2013 |
Study compares energy consumption of 3D printing to traditional manufacturing

green, 3d printing, According to Joshua Pearce of Michigan Technological University, 3D printing isn’t only cheaper than traditional manufacturing, it’s also greener.

In a new study titled “Environmental Life Cycle Analysis of Distributed Three-Dimensional Printing and Conventional Manufacturing of Polymer Products”, Pearce details the findings of a lifecycle economic analysis he performed on 3D printing energy use inside an average American household.

To perform his analysis Pearce selected three items common to the average American household: an orange juicer, a child’s building block and a water spout, and printed them all in PLA material. By determining the amount of energy used to create, store and ship these goods from a traditional factory-based system Pearce was able to compare his factory-based energy numbers with the energy use required to make the same products using a 3D printer.

According to his findings Pearce says 3D printing requires between 41 and 68 percent less energy than making these items in a factory.

“The bottom line is, we can get substantial reductions in energy and CO2 emissions from making things at home," said Pearce. "And the home manufacturer would be motivated to do the right thing and use less energy, because it costs so much less to make things on a 3D printer than to buy them off the shelf or on the Internet."

While 3D printers may never displace factories as the main method for producing goods, the demand for highly-customized product could soon catch up to mass-producers. Factory owners would do well to look for ways to integrate 3D printing into their operations.

Read Pearce’s Paper Here

Image Courtesy of Joshua Pearce

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