3D printing is not only a new novel production technology from a capability perspective. There are also definite benefits from an environmental perspective.
So what are environmental benefits on using 3D printing?
Asia the world’s manufacturer. Products hauled over the oceans to our stores. The transport of goods has a major impact on the environment. 3D printing makes it possible to locally produce. The proliferation of 3D printing plants is going to enforce this to the point that the products are printed around the corner or even in your home.
Only raw materials are transported which makes supply chain easier, cheaper and greener. Environment policies in most Western countries are stricter than Asian countries.
All this combined makes 3D printing a greener production method compared to most other manufacturing options available.
3D printing is also sometimes called additive manufacturing. Parts are grown during production instead of cut out of a bigger part like CNC. Waste from 3D printing is low to non-existent depending on the technology.
Not directly related to 3D printing but 3D printing makes it possible to have unlimited extension of the lifetime of spare parts. The digital shelf life of 3D designs of products and their spare parts is virtually zero. Spare parts are produced on demand extending the lifetime of products. By lowering the replacement cycle of products there is a major environmental impact.
I am curious how the energy footprint of 3D printed parts compare to injection molded parts. Especially taken into account transport and distribution costs. I think there is still ways to go in this area since mass-produced parts are still cheaper. In any way wide scale roll out of 3D printing has a positive impact on the environment.