Recycle plastic and you will have come full circle: this might very well be the (almost) zero impact motto of the Makers movement. Reusing the waste from 3D printers could be a good way to reduce waste and help the environment. That’s why many are curious about Filabot, the desktop system designed to recycle plastic. It is easy to operate; introduce plastic waste and the machine generates filaments to be used for new creations.
It is a good idea, but more than this is needed to revolutionise the world of the makers. Filabot debuted in 2012 with a campaign on Kickstarter, closed with 32,000 dollars of funding and the aim of quickly distributing the first prototypes. While waiting for its inventor Tyler McNaney, a 20-year-old from Vermont, to finalise work, it is worth assessing the environmental profile of 3D printing and DIY philosophy. As in any sector, there are pros and cons.
Less transport, less pollution with a 3D printer on the desk, every home can become a miniature factory. If you need an item, there’s no longer any need to look for it in a shop, just download virtual models from Thingiverse and create it yourself. In this scenario, many goods travel as bits from computer to computer, and only raw materials and products that are difficult to copy are left on the roads.
Reduction of industrial waste: gouging a block of material to pull out a component produces much scrap. In 3D layer printing (Additive Layer), the same object takes shape grain by grain, and what is left over can be used again. In addition, factories and designers no longer need to set up special production chains for new prototypes.
The impact of green: in addition to recyclable ABS plastic, 3D printers can also use the plant-based biopolymer PLA. The latter is biodegradable in the environment, but it is a derivative product of corn. Therefore, alongside its growing spread, we have to be careful how much agricultural land we take away from traditional crops.
The food revolution: according to The Guardian, 3D printing technology could also be extended to the production of food. Jeffrey Lipton of New York’s Cornell University has developed a machine that produces food using edible inks based on primary ingredients. In practice, print only what you need to eat on the spot and reduce waste.
Out of poverty: according to Harbir Kaur, science teacher and blogger on Huffington Post UK, 3D printers powered by solar energy could be the tools that will revolutionise life in developing countries. But it is not just a matter of sustainable manufacturing: if you become a maker, you also have access to a global network of people. It turns your brain on and makes you realise that you can build a future with your own hands.