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Engineering Materials
Slideshow: 3D Printing Is Cheap & Green for Plastics
11/11/2013

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Researchers conducted preliminary lifecycle analyses of three small plastic objects: a child's building block, a spout for a watering can, and a citrus juicer.   (Source: Joshua Pearce, Michigan Technological University)
Researchers conducted preliminary lifecycle analyses of three small plastic objects: a child's building block, a spout for a watering can, and a citrus juicer.
(Source: Joshua Pearce, Michigan Technological University)

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NadineJ
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very interesting!
NadineJ   11/11/2013 4:43:10 PM
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This is one of the better articles I've seen here on 3D printing in a long time.  The "cool" and "wow" factor has covered, ad nauseam.  Connecting the dots to green manufacturing is very interesting.

I look forward to hearing more about cloud 3D printing. 

Debera Harward
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Re: very interesting!
Debera Harward   11/12/2013 1:59:44 AM
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Thanks Ann, for such an informative post , According to me 3D printers used for personal use will be more cost effective as compared to those used for mass production because less raw material will be used. The example that you mentioned in your article regarding children block makes it very clear that 3D printing can be cheap because when we make objects by orselves we can chooe the type of the product , traditionally such blocks are made of wood but we can make them with plastic making them partially totally hollow from inside this reduces the material and drop down the cost of manufacturing as well.

Debera Harward
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Re: very interesting!
Debera Harward   11/12/2013 2:56:41 AM
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3D printing is no doubt a greener technology , less energy is required in this process which in result produces very little carbon dioxide which is harmfull to the enviornment .  I have read somewhere that people are using filamaker that is a machine in their homes with 3D printers that takes in used plastic and releases fresh strings of plastic.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: very interesting!
Ann R. Thryft   11/13/2013 11:52:34 AM
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Glad you liked it, Debera. I thought the research was timely, well-conceived, thorough, and well-executed.

Jim_E
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Saving up to $2000? Really?
Jim_E   11/12/2013 9:28:03 AM
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Color me skeptical with the quote of "an average household could save up to $2,000 a year making their own plastic products at home".  I guess that the "Up To" clause covers them, but I really don't see many households purchasing $2000 worth of plastic products a year which can be printed at home!

NadineJ
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Re: Saving up to $2000? Really?
NadineJ   11/12/2013 10:15:58 AM
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That's a good point.  "Up to" can be great qualifier to exaggerate.

Printing children's product is problematic.  There are scores of regulations for reasons.  Making children's toys from recycled plastic is nice and trendy but not very safe.  For example, it would be almost impossible to know if the toy is BPA free.  Anyone giving them away as gifts or selling the item at a DIY/Makers Fair could get into trouble for endangering children.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Saving up to $2000? Really?
Ann R. Thryft   11/13/2013 11:53:44 AM
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Jim_E, I was skeptical, too about the $2,000 figure. But it's amazing a) how much plastic the average American household consumes in a year and b) how many things can now be printed at home using 3D printers because of the machines and the availabilty of online open-source .STL files, plus cheap materials. The earlier open-access article we give a link to details how the researchers arrived at that figure as the maximum.

Cadman-LT
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Wow
Cadman-LT   11/12/2013 12:03:52 PM
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What a great article Ann. It blew me away.

Cadman-LT
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Re: Wow
Cadman-LT   11/12/2013 12:06:04 PM
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We have been talking about this for awhile now...3D printing....I knew this would happen, but so soon?

Cadman-LT
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Re: Wow
Cadman-LT   11/12/2013 12:10:21 PM
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Maybe it'll be like the microwave was...eventually everyone will have one and it will be common....need a cup..print one......it's crazy! Crazy kewl!

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Wow
Ann R. Thryft   11/13/2013 11:55:35 AM
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Thanks, Cadman-LT. I agree--yet another "wow" factor about this amazing technology area.

Greg M. Jung
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Type of Process
Greg M. Jung   11/12/2013 9:21:22 PM
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Good perspective on the energy savings benefits of 3D printing.  However, one further consideration  to evaluate when classifying a 3D printer as 'green' is which process is being used?  I may have a different definition than others, but I assume that 'green' also means less harmful or toxic to human beings.

Some 3D printers may use less energy, but certain processes use hazardous or toxic materials (which can be harmful to humans).  One 3D process that I used would cause skin allergies if the user was over-exposed due to frequent contact.  Another process caused my co-worker to have a brief case of silicosis.  I would suggest that in addition to energy consumption, that 'green' metrics also include the potential impact to the environment and to the operator's health.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Type of Process
Ann R. Thryft   11/13/2013 11:54:46 AM
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Greg, the health effects of the plastics used in 3D printing is definitely a subject that's received some attention recently. But the measurements of  "green" are quite specific and don't take health effects on human users into consideration: they're usually aimed specifically at reducing energy use, and therefore carbon emissions in the environment. That requires using an entirely different set of variables and measurements from those used to measure health effects. I think it would be confusing to merge the two. OTOH, I do agree that the health effects of the materials need more attention.

AnandY
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Re : cheap 3D
AnandY   11/24/2013 12:20:37 PM
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3D printing may be cheap in the long run but the costs of the same in the short term are prohibitively high. Very few companies can afford to use any 3D printers, let alone afford to buy the same. The costs go way beyond the costs of buying regular plastic raw materials and, as such, most companies will most likely stick to the latter for a long while to come.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Re : cheap 3D
Ann R. Thryft   11/25/2013 11:14:47 AM
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3D printing is no longer a monolithic entity: it consists of many different technologies and materials, and a wide range of printers. So the costs of printing, depending on how one defines them, also range very widely, and generalizations don't really apply. The point of this particular study is that, at the low end with a cheap printer, consumers can save money making actual end-production objects.
Regarding what will or won't happen with the higher end of 3D printing, including the proportion of end-products vs prototypes, a recent study by the long-term market research firm in this area (Wohler Associates) shows that finished goods have grown from 3.9% to 28.3% of revenue in just eight years (2003 to 2012) across all 3D printing sectors. This is true for GE Aviation and other high-end manufacturers. Stay tuned.

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