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.


Comments

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

Image

3D Systems buying Cimatron

November 24, 2014 1:46 pm ET

3D Systems Corp. is buying Cimatron Ltd., an Israel-based company that makes integrated computer-assisted design and manufacturing software, for $97...    More

Image

GE building $32 million advanced manufacturing center near Pittsburgh

November 14, 2014 1:33 pm ET

General Electric Co. is upping the role that additive manufacturing will play among its diverse businesses.    More

Image

Hy-Ten bringing in more sales, equipment, workers under new president

November 14, 2014 1:46 pm ET

Knowing all the aspects of custom molder Hy-Ten Plastics Inc.'s business has helped newly named President Cassandra McCullough build the company.    More

Image

Local Motors 3-D prints its second car even faster than the first

November 14, 2014 9:39 am ET

Local Motors, the company that 3-D printed and assembled a drivable car in just five days, is at it again — this time with one less day and...    More

Market Reports

Plastics in Brazil - State of the Industry Report

This in-depth report examines the Brazilian plastics industry from a historical and geographical context. Our analysts provide insight on economic trends and forecasts, growing manufacturing sectors that utilize plastics, private investment opportunities, market environment challenges, and innovations in R&D.

Data tables and charts on producer prices, trade, plastics production and end market indicators is also included.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Injection Molders Market Report & Ranking 2014

This special package contains our 132-page 2014 Market Report on the Injection Molding segment and our exclusive 2014 RANKINGS database of 500+ Injection Molders for a discounted package price.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

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

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

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events