3-D printing & plastics’ future

Kyle Hurst

Published: May 31, 2013 2:44 pm ET
Updated: May 31, 2013 2:50 pm ET

Related to this story

Topics Rapid Prototyping

In the last several months there has been a lot of fuss and a deluge of articles about plastics engineering and what 3-D printing in manufacturing could mean for the economy both locally, nationally and globally, and what this new spike in demand for plastics will do to our environment. Luckily it looks like there will be a bright future ahead both for the economy and the environment.

The fact that a simple 3-D printer doesn't cost much more than a computer makes it ideal for use by at-home innovators and inventors. This will, and already has, vastly increased the number of people working on pushing the envelope of what this new production method can accomplish. Already people are printing clothing, technical models, replacement parts and functional machines. These people are helping not only to develop new applications for 3-D printing, but they're essentially funding and providing feedback to the 3-D printing industry to build better and more effective 3-D printers to make the next round of innovations possible, which in turn accelerates the rate of advancement again.

The environmental cost of the use of plastics in the last 100 years has been staggering. Beaches all over the world are littered with waterborne trash from halfway across the world and the Pacific Ocean is host to a floating garbage patch twice the size of Texas, to say nothing of the atmospheric damage cause by the production and proliferation of plastics. Can the transition to the use of even more plastics be anything but environmentally catastrophic if we suddenly find ourselves using perhaps twice the amount of fossil fuels as before?

The answer is yes, 3-D printing can revolutionize recycling by making it directly profitable to consumers as well as practical and easy. Most printing materials are fully recyclable and filament extruders are already readily available that can recycle your plastic waste into fully functional 3-D printing materials. If the item you make breaks or wears out you can simply recycle it into filament and start over. This could effectively stop all plastic pollution, as well as creating a demand for used plastics that could fund cleanup efforts.

Currently a vast portion of the costs of the goods that we use every day comes from paying for the labor and energy required to produce, market, ship, stock and sell them.

While some products simply can't be made with 3-D printing, others could become entirely obsolete within a few years. What's the point of going to the store to buy clothing when you can look them up online, insert your measurements, and print out a perfectly fitted item? Any money you pay would go directly to the designer, cutting out the entire supply chain and resulting in vastly reduced prices. If the material that you use to make the item is gained from recycled plastic waste from your own home, then the final cost of such a product would be a tiny fraction of what it costs at the store today.

Kyle Hurst has a background in 3-D modeling and B2B marketing. He's currently pursuing his education further and writing about 3-D plastic printing in his free time.


3-D printing & plastics’ future

Kyle Hurst

Published: May 31, 2013 2:44 pm ET
Updated: May 31, 2013 2:50 pm ET

Post Your Comments

Back to story

More stories


Canadian firm planning a $10 million bet on additive manufacturing

August 14, 2014 3:05 pm ET

Canada's first full production additive parts manufacturer is gearing up to make parts for markets as diverse as aerospace, medical and energy.    More


3D Systems acquires rapid prototyping firms

August 14, 2014 11:17 am ET

ROCK HILL, S.C. — 3D Systems Inc. has acquired American Precision Prototyping (APP) and its sister company American Precision Machining (APM),...    More

Market Reports

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Pipe, Profile & Tubing Extrusion in North America 2014

U.S. demand for extruded plastics is expected to grow by 3 percent in 2014, with PVC remaining the largest segment.

Plastic pipe will post the strongest gains through 2018, continuing to take market share from competing materials in a range of markets.

Our latest market report provides in-depth analysis of current trends and their financial impact on the pipe, profile and tubing extrusion industry in North America.

Learn more

2014 Injection Molding Industry Report


In the wake of the economic turbulence earlier in this decade, molders today find themselves in much better shape. Molders are gaining a competitive advantage by investing in people, equipment and seeking inroads into new markets on a global scale.

Growth in the injection molding industry is going to be driven by low financing costs and a continued move to reshore some business.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events