Good to see 'green' biodegradable materials being developed for the 3D printing industry. I remember when 3D printing first came out, some of the materials used were toxic and skin contact was to be avoided before the curing process. This new material development is an encouraging trend for our environment (especially as the world-wide use of 3D printing increases).
i agree with both you and Greg, Ann, it is really cool when these trends come together. 3D printing is so promising it's also good to see more environmentally friendly materials entering the mix. And of course you are on top of bringing us the latest!
Greg, unfortunately many of the materials used for 3D printing are still toxic, at least to breathe, and that's one reason why I find it hard to believe consumers are going to adopt this in big numbers (I have lots of others, some of which are mentioned here http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9247857/Consumers_are_meh_about_3D_printers).
Ann, I was wondering if the line is compatible with printers from various vendors of 3D printers. Do they have to offer a selection of diameters and melting points and cooling profiles? Another question I have is whether there are printers for the home market that have high enough resolution to print clear plastic with a reasonably specular surface. Can they print a pair of lenses for sunglasses -- or a model airplane canopy?
In addition to 'green' 3D materials, I can also see more and more 'renewable' 3D materials being developed too. I believe that future formulations will be made from a higher percentage of renewable plastics (rather than from current, mostly petroleum-based polymers).
Agreed Greg. It reminds me of Emerging Objects doing some similar sort of work. I love the feeling that we are moving away from wasteful resources and trying to utilize as much renewable components as possible and unite our ideas into environment friendly solutions.
So does the stuff only begin to degrade when placed in a landfill-? How does its ability to "breakdown" relate to its strength for the printed product-? You certainly would not want a printed output model to have some sort of a half-life.
Jim, check out the company's website. There's a handy diagram and brief discussion here http://www.sierraresins.com/sustainability.html We've also discussed what happens to plastics in open landfills without additives and in landfill-to-energy operations with additives, in several DN articles.
It would be interesting to know how the material knows that it is in a landfill instead of someplace else, like my backpack or my pocket. Biodegradable materials that start to break down at the wrong time would be a big waste and a real problem. So what exactly does tell the plastic that it is in a landfill?
Possibly the real solution is to not put discards into landfills, but to recycle the materials. That might solve multiple problems.
Consistent exposure to sun, the wind and the elements breaks down everything faster. When companies tend to chart "breakdown in landfills" they're talking about open landfills, which hardly exist anymore. We bury our garbage. That slows down biodegradation--significantly.
Nadine, here in Michigan landfills are close to hermetically sealed. Typically with a plastic ground liner and a base of clay, and then another clay covering on top. The preservation is so good that a twenty year old hot dog has been identified. Landfills open to the elements, that have been in existance for many years seem to contain primarily old broken bottles and occasional chunks of rusted iron. So, really, the best choice would be to put the garbage in a methanne producing landfill, along with the domestic sewerage, and to recycle the rest. And rather than using high energy complex machinery for the recycling, let people scour the areas and pick out the materials to sell, such as glass, metals, and plastics.Free enterprise will always do this better than the typical poorly thought out government processes, and free enterprise would not waste our tax dollars.
Landfills all over the US and Europe are underground. Some countries in Europe even export their toxic waste to the US for burial.
There's a lot of "green-washing" in many industries. Biodegradable materials are lauded for breaking down quickly in landfills, but they don't break down quickly underground. Since most landfills are underground, what's the truth?
I don't agree that free enterprise is always better than the government but things may be a little different here in California.
Nadine, California is one state where quite a few government decisions llok like they were made based primarily on emotions with little regard for facts. Of course that is seeing it from far away. Some states on the east coast are much worse for that, the closer to the capitol the worse off they are.
And it is primarily in the programs that try to do things that are not really government resposibilities that it gets worse and worse.
Good observation William. Here many laws are passed by voter initiative. Lots of money comes in for the campaigns, and emotions run high. Our legislature seems to rarely weigh all options, think long term, debate and pass laws.
I think if people were better informed, they'd make better decisions. I guess good information doesn't make a good campaign.
A good portion of my business is reasoning out the secondary and tertiary results of actions. Not that very difficult, sort of like the safety FMEA thing that some folks use. ZOnly it goes beyond that.
William, biodegradable and compostable plastics are often formulated to trigger breakdown when certain temperatures are reached, temperatures that only occur inside landfills under certain conditions. This company is known for making an additive that helps polymers break down, but not in any old landfills: specifically in landfills that are associated with landfill-to-energy operations. These are very different in several ways from open landfills used by consumers. Reuse and recycling are usually considered the first best option, but not all plastics are recyclable.
Ann these are great points, and not easy solutions.Thanks for laying them all out on the table.
I see from the Sierra website where the design-intent of the chemical resin is to be susceptible to microbe enzymes found in landfills.I admire and support the engineering efforts, but clearly state the double-edge sword of "biodegradability", being that structural breakdown should not (cannot-!) begin while the product is still in its Use-Life-Cycle.
I think WilliamK made an excellent supposition, describing a back-pack hanging in a dark closet.I imagine a bottle of Pepsi in that back pack could be very confused as to whether it was still in its Use-Life-Cycle, or if it had been tossed into EOL status.
I think a real breakthrough might be if there was a locked enzyme within the resin compound that could be chemically released to trigger the start of the decomposition cycle, once the physical product structure were to be crushed, broken, or fractured.There is a missing link in this whole equation, being the catalyst to 'start the process'.
Jim, actually that Pepsi bottle wouldn't be at all confused: temperatures inside a backpack in a closet don't resemble temperatures in a landfill, which can be quite high. Biodegradable and compostable plastics are usually formulated to trigger breakdown when certain temperatures are reached, which only occur inside landfills under certain conditions.
As we've pointed out in many blogs, 3D printing is faster, less expensive, and less energy-intense for many aerospace applications. Another blog covered a study showing that it can be both cheaper and greener for consumers printing plastic items: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=269539 So my point is that 3D printing is not monolithic. It depends on how one is measuring and what variables are being included. The problem with blanket statements about 3D printing being faster or slower, less or more green/sustainable, and less or more expensive than other manufacturing methods is that all of these can be true, depending on the process, materials, application, users, build volume, part quantities/build and total builds.
Thanks for clarifying, Ann – I was assuming the trigger was a particular temperature level, but then thought again that a bottle in a landfill, if buried deeply away from Sun & Weather, would mimic normal underground temperatures and hover around 55 degrees. But, on the contrary, I guess all that decomposition generates a lot of natural heat, doesn't it-?
Yes Jim, a LOT of heat. There are also other chemical conditions that pertain. It's easy to find info about all this on Wikipedia and websites of the various companies that convert garbage to energy, as well as associations of those companies and organizations.
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