Behind the Technology
The principle behind 3d printing, or additive manufacturing, can be easily pointed out: in the first place you need a digital file as a template for the object of desire. The template can be either found online or created individually. Therefore, there is explicit software on the market. Secondly, based on the information the printer received from the file, it “prints” down successive layers of its fabric horizontally until the object reaches its final status. The fabrics can vary from synthetic substances of any kind, metals, cement, food or any other applicable material of choice.
At the moment, there are several different printers on the market, depending on what you want to use it for, the prices vary enormously. Printers for private usage and printing of small, simple items start from around 150 Euros whereas printers to be used for larger, or more complex products for industrial usage can easily require a few thousand Euros.
Industrial usage of additive manufacturing is increasing rapidly as the technology provides many benefits. The variety of objects that can be made by is obviously boundless. The technology can be applied in a great spectrum of fields and can provide items that were previously not as easily accessible to a greater mass. More and more companies integrate the technology in their supply chain as additive manufacturing reaches a point nowadays where it can be applied in mass production whereas in the early stages it was mostly required for prototyping products. When it comes to industrial usage of 3d printing, the technology is relevant for both the production of consumer and industrial goods. For instance, there are several fashion accessories on the market such as bracelets or eyewear. On the other hand, the technology is nowadays also used in the automotive or aviation industry to improve up their production processes.
Finalizing this sector, the principle behind additive manufacturing is uncomplicated as the printer basically only puts layer on layer and the total range of products that can be created is infinite. Apparently, the technology is already beneficial for industries, but the full potential is yet to be discovered.
3D printing trends
In a world that expects fast productions for all kinds of industries, automation and cost-effectiveness, 3D printers fit in just right, bringing more benefits and less impact to our world. 3D printing uses artificial intelligence to revolutionize manufacturing. It combines innovation and some key SDGs to any field. For example, in the medical area, new prosthetics have been developed to meet the needs of many patients, promoting well-being for all in addition to becoming more and more affordable.
3D printing can be the answer to faster production and innovation, aligned with sustainability and sustainable development. 3D printers use the exact amount of material needed to produce a prototype piece. In other words, it creates very little waste and saves the company a lot of money. In addition, reusing waste materials is relatively easy.
While talking about 3d printing trends, of course, the upgrade, 4d printing needs to be considered. It is a process like 3d printing where the material is applied layer on layer with the difference that here a fourth dimension comes into play. In 4d printing smart materials are the technology’s key driver. Important here is that materials unveil their final shape after a certain period of time. Especially the medical industry can profit from this technology a lot, particularly when it comes to implants.
As 3d printing is not anymore just a technique to prototype things, but to produce final products, as well, the technology’s total potential is yet to be explored. What is certain is that on-demand production requires less capital. That makes the market entrance for new companies more affordable. A variety of young businesses see the uncertainty in the industry as a chance and as more people will have the possibilities to bring their ideas on the market, the power of 3d print and its innovation will surely increase by the time.
3D printing and the sustainable development goals
Additive manufacturing consists of a great potential when it comes to contributing to several of the SDGs and their sub-goals. With 3D printers, marvellous things are starting to happen. No longer there will be the need for expensive shipments of items. Individuals can create whatever they need anywhere they are. There’s a positive impact on the environment with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions caused by long-distance shipping and delivery. 3d printing enables companies to produce almost completely on demand which avoids the overproduction of goods to a certain level. Experts see here a great potential of an end of mass-production.
3D printers can make tools that were previously out of bounds for people in developing countries. Bring relief to people who suffer from amputations and can’t get prosthetics due to high costs. A relatively cheap 3D printer is already being used for this purpose in Africa. The 3d printing technology here supports directly the SDG 3 (good health and well-being)and its sub-goal 3.8 in terms of universal health coverage and access to quality essential and affordable health-care services.
Ayúdame3d is a Spain based project with the aim to provide the poorest of us with 3d printed prosthetics. That kind of prosthetics are way cheaper in the production than common ones, which creates greater opportunities for the association. Already, they have provided more than 50 people that have suffered from serious injuries with their printed prosthetics.
When it comes to SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) additive manufacturing certainly will prove its impact. Step by step 3d printing makes its way from a prototyping only technology towards a real alternative to “common” manufacturing techniques. The level of productivity within economies through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation is on the one side target 8.4 of SDG 8, and on the other side perfectly creating space for additive manufacturing on a large scale in the long run. Furthermore, the technology allows industries to deal more efficiently and responsibly with (finite) resources and additionally, it has potential to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation. Last point would contribute enormously to SDG 8’s target 8.4
Based in Russia, AnisoPrint’s printers are printing continuous fibre in order to build aircrafts, cars, spaceships or drones with lower weight but at the same time they want the material to be stronger. Lowering a vehicle’s weight, especially when it comes to cars, always goes hand in hand with a reduction of emissions at the same time.
Industry, innovation and infrastructure – those are the key words of SDG 9 and again, 3d printing technologies demonstrate their potential to impact the goal. In the target 9.2: Promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization […], the words itself explain how 3d printing can have impact. While talking about sustainable industrialization it seems like there is no way around additive manufacturing. The technology requires less input and produces less waste or unwanted output. The last point also related to target 9.4: […] upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes […]. But also, for the following sub-goal, target 9.5 (enhance scientific research, upgrade the technological capabilities of industrial sectors in all countries, in particular developing countries […]), 3d printing surely will be considered.
Print your City! Is a Dutch startup found in 2017 that is using 3d print on a large scale to contribute to a more circular business environment. What they do: they’re using big amounts of plastics, recycle them to generate their filaments in order to create public furniture for the city of Amsterdam. One single printed bench requires about 23 kg of plastic waste which is quite an amount.
3d printing is definitely able to make cities and communities more sustainable. This is what SDG 11 is about and once more, the technology will help to meet target 11.7 as it supports providing universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible (green and) public spaces […].
After a mind changing trip to Haiti in 2014, Bratt Hagler got to the point when he realized that there is an absolute need to change people’s housing conditions drastically. He found New Story Charity as a start-up non-profit organization in order to tackle the challenge. After a while, he and his team were figuring out a concept and applied for the Y Combinator grand, which they surprisingly got as one of the first non-profit organizations. They’ve been challenged by Y Combinator to build 100 new homes within 100 days. New Story Charity made the impossible possible and created even 13 homes on top of the 100. From then, they have expanded their project from Haiti to El Salvador, Mexico and other countries. In 2017, together with their partner ICON, they invented the first 3d home printer and printed their first home in Texas with the ultimate goal to be able to print whole communities in Latin America.
Maybe the most interesting goal additive manufacturing will affect is the SDG 12(sustainable consumption and production). Especially while considering responsible production, the opportunities we gain from 3d printing are simply great. 3d printing cuts down the overproduction of plastic products, needs less storage space, and generates less waste than traditional manufacturing techniques. In a circular economy, plastic, food, cement and other materials which otherwise would become waste, could be made into new products. Achieving sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources(target 12.2), is just one out of few issues where 3d printing may be steps in to tackle the challenge within the next few years. Also, to substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse (target 12.5) additive manufacturing could be a real solution, as the technology has the capability to turn waste into new, recyclable, products. Additive manufacturing allows companies to produce decentralized and on-demand resources locally. Target 12.6 aims to encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle. Obviously, 3d printing has the ability to contribute towards a realization of the sub-goal.
Upprinting Food is another Dutch start-up focused on recycling food. Their approach is to recycle food waste in order to create new products. They blend and combine different ingredients that would have been thrown away in order to create different pastes that then will be used by their 3d printers to create pastries. The dough they created will be baked and dehydrated which increases their products lifecycle enormously.
Decentralized production, use of recyclable materials as a base for new products, accessibility, avoidance of greenhouse gases, production on demand, access to affordable prosthetics, … those are only a few examples to mention additive manufacturing’s benefits towards a more and more circular and beneficially economic approach.
(Co-written by Jonas Kufky and Christopher Storey)