3D Printers Face Three Major Environmental Challenges

3D printers work on the same principle as traditional printers. 3D printers are connected to a computer and controlled by the computer to print layers of material, using technology such as light curing and paper lamination to print the pattern from the computer into a finished product. The three-dimensional map in the computer directly "print" and made into a physical object, especially in the production of cars or construction and other large objects in the manufacturing process, reducing the number of assembly parts, and shorten the supply chain process.

But this manufacturing star of tomorrow is not as perfect as people say, such as the "new darling of the environment.

First, the environmental protection and energy-saving products themselves are energy-saving and environmentally friendly?

When questioning any environmentally friendly product, it is invariably necessary to look at the product's life cycle, i.e. whether the product's environmental impact exceeds a critical threshold at several stages of the manufacturing process. In addition to the environmental impact of products that use raw materials from the extraction process, such as oil for fuel, in their manufacturing and hot and cold processing; however, we can easily find in the printing process of any 3D printer - which as an incremental technology gradually builds up many very thin layers to form the object to be manufactured, with its countless supporting materials The inkjet 3D printer also wastes 40-50% of its ink.

  At the heart of tapping into the potential of 3D printers as an environmentally friendly manufacturing technology is the need to create distinctive and more environmentally friendly product lifecycles, and the most valuable aspect of 3D printers is the direct generation of design images from computers, improving the form, function, performance and durability of products, even as one can imagine the impact that 3D print manufacturing will have on transforming global supply chains and shortening product lifecycles down the road. However, for the 3D printer itself, the product production cycle itself is not zero pollution or zero waste.

Second, can 3D printers be environmentally friendly in terms of power consumption, time and raw materials?

  3D printers mainly from the electricity supply, as long as witnessed the whole process of 3D printer printing will know, a size of about 30 cm irregularly shaped three-dimensional disc model requires a 3D printer work twenty-eight and a half hours; compared to injection molding machine industrial-grade printer, 3D printers use heat or laser melting plastic consumption is estimated to have 50 to 100 times, in the same weight of the printed product, 3D printers then consume more electricity than injection molding.

In addition to the high energy consumption generated throughout the manufacturing process, 3D printing production relies heavily on plastics, and unlike injection molding (the traditional method of manufacturing plastic objects), which leaves a very small amount of unused plastic raw materials, plastic industrial-grade 3D printers use powdered or molten polymers to print but leave a large amount of unused raw materials behind. The side effect of plastic is that the material can sometimes be reused during the printing process, but most of the damage due to material properties but can not be recycled and have to be discarded directly.

Thankfully, a large number of foreign technology companies have begun to develop energy-efficient and environmentally friendly 3D printing raw materials, this gradually make up for the lack of raw materials to use plastic caused by the environmental impact, that is, salt, cement, wood or cement polymer development of printing materials to replace the original thermoplastic and photopolymer and other non-environmentally friendly printing materials.

Third, 3D printer toxin emission effect is better than the general machine?

The proportion of ozone produced in the use of traditional laser printers is 1.65 times that of air; traditional printers are leaking toner dust during use and emit a dust containing large amounts of iron-silicon powder, and heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and tribute contained in the printing ink.

  However, 3D printers are no exception - the fumes formed during the printing process of 3D printers are called UFP (ultra-fine particles), which in experiments with animals and humans can affect changes in lung function, allergic reactions, thrombosis or alter heart rate. While UFPs formed by 3D printers in general do not have an excessive impact on humans and are within the acceptable range for humans, there are still no reliable studies that show the true environmental impact of UFPs generated by 3D printers for home use and industrial-scale 3D printers respectively, but it is certain that printers must be placed in ventilated locations that are farther away from humans.

Whether it's Urbee's world's first car with a 3D printer in Canada this year, or the small 3D printers and finished toys seen at Beijing's Garage Coffee, 3D printers have really come from the concept to our side and are gradually changing our lives. Especially China as one of the world's largest manufacturing countries, 3D printing technology will be widely used in various industries, and reduce its negative impact on the environment depends not only on how to improve the supply of renewable energy, the use of raw materials, but also on how people put these new technologies into use in moderation.