Posted By Raj Singh on 09/26/2017 in Health and Lifestyle

Are 3D Printers leaving a Carbon Footprint?

Are 3D Printers leaving a Carbon Footprint?

3D printing is the ideal printing method to use right now. It’s acclaimed for being a ‘green alternative’ and favored by printers and hobbyists alike for enabling quick printing of anything from anywhere.

Despite its many positives, 3D printing has been the subject of many debates among environmentalists for its alleged negative effect on the environment. Naturally, the debates are as heated as they always are with any cool technology that manufacturers don’t want to tarnish.

How does 3D printing work?

3D printing is mainly used to reproduce 2D projections of images from computer screens into actual physical products. The process followed is known as modelling, and plastic filaments are used as a raw material. ABS, or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and polylactic acid, best known as PLA, are the most common forms of plastic used, owing to their thermoplasticity and being easier to fold and mould.

How does 3D printing become dangerous to the environment?

As a process, 3D printing is not without its downsides. The process affects the environment in more ways than one, despite being touted as a 'green alternative'. For starters, the 3D printing process releases toxic ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) fumes into the environment. They may be invisible, but the fumes released in the process contain toxic by-products that pollute the immediate environment.

3D printers use more energy than conventional modelling machines to maintain the plastic in molten state. Research done at the UK’s Loughborough University revealed that the 3D printing process used 50-100 times more electricity than injection moulding machines at some stages of the process.

Perhaps the biggest worry is the plastic waste this process gives off, most of which is are not reusable. Big industrial 3D printers produce the highest amounts of this plastic waste, courtesy of the size of their jobs. Because they cannot be reused and are hard to recycle, these wastes tend to accumulate and can be damaging to soil and water if discarded carelessly.

Some people do their 3D printing from home, and end up producing lots of useless materials that they later discard. This is one other way waste piles up, and some of it may not be disposed off properly.

3D printing is going places; there's no question about that. But until proper management schemes are put in place for the gaseous and solid waste it produces, the 3D printing process will continue releasing a hazard into the environment

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