Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

3-D printing: The greener choice

Date:
October 3, 2013
Source:
Michigan Technological University
Summary:
A life cycle impact analyses on three products, an orange juicer, a children's building block and a water spout, showed that making the items on a basic 3-D printer took from 41 percent to 64 percent less energy than making them in an overseas factory and shipping them to the US.

3D printing can save energy by using less raw material. These partially printed Swiss children's blocks show how a printer can partly fill the interior of an item with plastic while maintaining its strength.
Credit: Samuel Bernier photo

3D printing isn't just cheaper, it's also greener, says Michigan Technological University's Joshua Pearce.

Even Pearce, an aficionado of the make-it-yourself-and-save technology, was surprised at his study's results. It showed that making stuff on a 3D printer uses less energy -- and therefore releases less carbon dioxide -- than producing it en masse in a factory and shipping it to a warehouse.

Most 3D printers for home use, like the RepRap used in this study, are about the size of microwave ovens. They work by melting filament, usually plastic, and depositing it layer by layer in a specific pattern. Free designs for thousands of products are available from outlets like Thingiverse.com.

Common sense would suggest that mass-producing plastic widgets would take less energy per unit than making them one at a time on a 3D printer. Or, as Pearce says, "It's more efficient to melt things in a cauldron than in a test tube." However, his group found it's actually greener to make stuff at home.

They conducted life cycle impact analyses on three products: an orange juicer, a children's building block and a waterspout. The cradle-to-gate analysis of energy use went from raw material extraction to one of two endpoints: entry into the US for an item manufactured overseas or printing it a home on a 3D printer.

Pearce's group found that making the items on a basic 3D printer took from 41 percent to 64 percent less energy than making them in a factory and shipping them to the US.

Some of the savings come from using less raw material. "Children's blocks are normally made of solid wood or plastic," said Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering/electrical and computer engineering. 3D printed blocks can be made partially or even completely hollow, requiring much less plastic.

Pearce's team ran their analysis with two common types of plastic filament used in 3D printing, including polylactic acid (PLA). PLA is made from renewable resources, such as cornstarch, making it a greener alternative to petroleum-based plastics. The team also did a separate analysis on products made using solar-powered 3D printers, which drove down the environmental impact even further.

"The bottom line is, we can get substantial reductions in energy and CO2 emissions from making things at home," Pearce said. "And the home manufacturer would be motivated to do the right thing and use less energy, because it costs so much less to make things on a 3D printer than to buy them off the shelf or on the Internet."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan Technological University. The original article was written by Marcia Goodrich. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Megan Kreiger, Joshua M. Pearce. Environmental Life Cycle Analysis of Distributed Three-Dimensional Printing and Conventional Manufacturing of Polymer Products. ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 2013; 131002082320002 DOI: 10.1021/sc400093k

Cite This Page:

Michigan Technological University. "3-D printing: The greener choice." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131003132300.htm>.
Michigan Technological University. (2013, October 3). 3-D printing: The greener choice. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131003132300.htm
Michigan Technological University. "3-D printing: The greener choice." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131003132300.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins