What Impact Does Your Printing Have on the Environment?

Tree printed using our PLA 1.75mm Elefilament

Climate change (and how to tackle it) is becoming a global priority. All industries have to consider how they impact the environment and how they will lessen their carbon footprint. As a piece of technology continues to rise in popularity, it’s important to consider the environmental impact which it has. Let us bring the planet into consideration, and take a closer look at just how eco-friendly 3D printing can be.

How much energy does 3D printing use?

Each 3D printer model is different, for instance, our in-house 3D printer models TEVO Tarantula and Flashforge have a consumption of roughly 100-200W, which is equal to the consumption of a mini-bar-sized fridge freezer. Therefore, not only are the energy emissions significantly lower in 3D printing, but it's also significantly faster to produce.

For instance, if you were wanting to manufacture a few game pieces to replace those missing from your trusty board game, a piece not more than 5cm in height would be produced in 20 minutes, roughly amounting to 120 KJ (Kilo Joules) worth of energy, which is roughly equivalent to having a 100W lightbulb switched on for 20 minutes!

Environmentally-friendly materials

Energy usage of 3D printing makes a strong case, but let us now talk materials. The most common 3D printing filament: plastic, is widely recyclable, and some filament is even made from recycled plastic!

Taking it a step further, you have biodegradable filaments that can be used, such as our Vanish Water Dissolvable Filament. This provides you with a zero-waste alternative that's great for eco-friendly printing.

 It is therefore not surprising that 3D printing can have a positive environmental effect. 3D printing can be used to cheaply and quickly manufacture spare parts for products, meaning that a product’s lifecycle can be lengthened and thus the production demand for brand new ones lessened. 

3D Brooklyn and their recycled plastic PET filament is a great example of offsetting energy costs by recycling material
A MasterSpool designed by us which fits into a small print bed. Available on Thingiverse

We must also bear in mind that when 3D printing objects, there is far less material waste than in standard manufacturing processes. Compared to the injection moulding or shearing methods used in subtractive manufacturing, the additive layered process of 3D printing, uses only the required amount of material. 

So not only is there less waste, the leftover filament can be used to create your very own MasterSpool.

3D printing and reducing the corporate carbon footprint

Let us take a moment and look at it from the perspective of large-scale industrial plants (aka those responsible for a big part of worldwide energy consumption). For instance, a car manufacturing plant maintains a complex supplier chain for the different parts that it needs, some of which are small and produced in large batches. Thanks to 3D printing, these parts can be reduced to a design which can be easily accessed and printed in house or in close proximity of the plant. By employing this method, the need to ship small-to-medium parts across the world is eliminated, thus lowering the carbon footprint when it comes to the overall production.

Furthermore, we spoke about the ways additive manufacturing can reduce the amount of material wasted during the printing process. Moreover, thanks to the speedier production times, it can also eliminate the supplier's need to manufacture in bulk, and instead adopt an on-demand production that both saves money (and space) when it comes to storage. (#minimalism are we right?)

It is without a doubt, that 3D printing presents an excellent opportunity when it comes to an environmentally friendly form of production. By offering more and more flexibilities in terms of eco-friendly material whilst reducing waste, 3D printing is a great solution for all those thinking green when it comes to 3D printing, and this is why we support the MasterSpool project to help reduce filament packaging waste. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s cheaper to buy MasterSpool refills than spooled filament. Happy printing!