When it comes to technological progress throughout history, the scientific advances have been both good and bad for the environment. Progress has taken place on both ends of the spectrum of the environment. While newer technology can potentially degrade the environment further, it also has every possibility of saving the day in the end. Stepping into the 21st century has been rather alarming thanks to the environmental catastrophes happening all over the world, and more to come in future. However, at the same time, we have experienced immense progress in eco-friendly projects that could be an answer to the environmental degradation problem. Hence, green technology can help us avoid and solve almost every environmental problem. The newest addition to the environmentally friendly technology family is 3d printing and rapid prototyping. The various forms of additive manufacturing such as 3d printing, rapid prototyping etc. can in fact lead to healthy environmental conditions all over the world.
There was a significant shift towards recycling waste products around the early 90’s, which started during the late 80’s. Developed countries tried to implement recycling at an individual level and hence started handing out curbside bins to the residents of most areas. People became aware of the fact that they have to be careful before throwing out certain products. Hence, recycling plants began to flourish around these periods, producing fully functional products regenerated from apparent waste materials. Around three decades later, we are on the brink of yet another revolution in recycling. 3d printers use plastics, metals and other materials that are ground up and made into printing filament. Perpetual Plastic is a movement to make print filament out of these plastic and metal wastes. Another project, Filabot actually got 300% of its funding goal when it was a Kickstarter project. If proper tools are available, then used plastic bottles can be recycled by putting it into a machine, and after a few steps the same bottle can be transformed into various other items. Scientists and hobbyists are working with wood materials, glass and metals to help make 3d printing more eco-friendly.
As many different items are shipped from one place to the other all over the world, there is also a huge amount of fossil fuels consumed in shipping. Millions of barrels of oil are used just to ship your desired items from other parts of the globe. Not only that, vehicles such as freight trains, cargo ships, delivery trucks, etc. help facilitate global trade through the consumption of fossil fuels. With the popularization of online shopping from websites like Amazon or eBay, millions of people get their products within two business days- which requires a lot of fuel. As we all know, the burning of fossil fuels is responsible for environmental pollution. With 3d printing at our disposal, we can really make a difference by cutting back on shipments for different industries. Instead of shipping something from another part of the world, the same information can be downloaded onto 3d printers to print out a toy for your children, jewelry for your loved ones or a smartphone case for you. Instead of ordering these items online and paying for shipping, these can be printed out from the luxury of home. In future, this move will help save time, cut costs and most importantly, preserve the environment.
Last but not the least, 3d printing technology can help us cut back on waste in manufacturing industries around the globe. Alternatively known as additive manufacturing, rapid prototyping and 3d printing technology involves slowly adding materials to items until construction is finished. The ‘ink’ is added layer by layer to prepare a complete structure; hence there is less room for error. Most other manufacturing methods happen to be subtractive. While building furniture out of wood, the entire piece of lumber is not used in a single piece of furniture. Plus, there is sawdust, scrap etc. left over as waste products that cannot be used for anything else. Today’s manufacturing industries use basically the same principle these days- hence there are almost always waste materials. These wastes or surplus materials end up in landfills or somewhere unwanted where they accelerate environmental degradation. Major companies in the world have pledged to include 3d printing facilities in their manufacturing plants to cut down on wastes.
Gone are the days of people thinking technology would only make the world worse! Instead of being afraid or skeptical about 3d printing, the fact that the field has a lot of potential has to be recognized. 3d printing can definitely solve some of the major environmental problems that we face in today’s world.
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