Commercial 3D Printing And Sustainability


What if 3D printers became a standard home appliance that you could find in virtually every household? What if they actually reduced waste by using recycled materials rather than new materials for each print?

Current Technology


  • 9 Benefits of 3D Printing 
    • save up to 70% of manufacture costs, fast production, less waste/60% lighter product, better quality
  • A Sustainability Scorecard for 3D Printing
  • Could 3D Printing End Our Throwaway Culture? 
  • Developing Sustainable Bioplastics for 3D Printers
    • “The Makerbot community is also working on ways to recycle the leftover plastic – and other household materials – so that you can re-use it to create more useful products. If this takes off it means we can recycle locally, rather than shipping it round the world where they turn it into something else and then ship it back again. As well as reducing our carbon footprint, using recycled materials for print purposes could also reduce our yearly spend on many essential items. Just imagine if you could recycle your child’s outgrown shoes, chuck in some extra plastic or a milk bottle or two, and then remake them a size bigger.”

Recycling Today: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Step 1: Collection and Processing

Recyclables are collected via curbside collection, drop-off centers, and deposit or refund programs.

Then, recyclables are sent to recovery facility for sorting, cleaning and processing into usable materials for manufacturing

 Step 2: Manufacturing

More and more of today’s products are being manufactured with recycled content. Common household items that contain recycled materials include:

  • newspapers and paper towels;
  • aluminum, plastic, and glass soft drink containers;
  • steel cans; and
  • plastic laundry detergent bottles.

Recycled materials are also used in new ways such as recovered glass in asphalt to pave roads or recovered plastic in carpeting and park benches.

 Step 3. Purchasing New Products Made From Recycled Materials

By buying new products made from recycled materials you help close the recycling loop. There are thousands of products that contain recycled content. When you go shopping, look for products that can be easily recycled, and contain recycled content. Here are some of the terms used: Recycled-content product, Postconsumer content, Recyclable product.

Design Future

  • 3D printing is now accessible and a common home appliance
  • easy to purchase blueprints from companies for products to print
  • when discarding old unwanted plastics such as utensils, plates, furniture, turns into reuse. (new “recycling” chart)
  • you can melt these things into 3D printable materials to make new things (changes redecorating)
    • toys for kids who outgrow them / handmedowns, clothes like shoes when outgrow, accessories, decorations, replacing broken parts of appliances and things at home
  • printing only what you need (saves material wasted on unbought products in the market, especially if you keep reusing)
  • reduce, remake, reuse
  • More radical: Production of (nonbio)plastic is banned so all plastic existing on earth is all recycled. Companies purchase plastic from consumer to make new products using 3D printer, and consumer buys back or can choose to keep for own reusing purposes.

In the year 2033, 3D Printers have become the PC of the 21st century. You can find them in just about every household, print center, and school in the US. Not only are these printers now cheaper and easier to use than ever, they also take unwanted, used plastics (and other materials) and convert it into 3D printing material, making it a cheap and environmentally friendly alternative to mass produced products from big name companies. By 2050, many big companies have already begun to phase out their manufacturing plants in favor of selling blueprints for their products to consumers instead, in favor of reducing costs for both sides, as well as time to produce, material cost, and transportation costs for the company.

Artifact Ideas

  • Recycling process explained for kids (reduce, reuse, remake). Focus on reusing materials into 3D print material to remake new things. Diagram or comic format. 
  • Recycling propaganda, new advertisements from big companies telling you to buy blueprints instead of products to save the environment. Or advertisements telling you to switch to bioplastics because normal plastics still emit bad toxins to the earth when thrown out or used
  • Data charts about plastic recycling and waste

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