A piece in The Bulletin proposes that 3D printing could be used to help stop climate change. But is this really possible?
“The Bulletin” is the publication better known as the “Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists”. This is the group that publishes the famous “Doomsday Clock”, which currently is set at a near-frightening three minutes to midnight. “Midnight” is meant to represent global calamity. If you’re interested in the clock, a complete history of its settings is available here.
But the concept they’re portraying is the idea that 3D printing could assist in slowing down climate change. Here’s the gist of the idea:
- If a massive number of 3D printers were deployed all over the world,
- Then designers worldwide could create 3D solutions and send their designs anywhere,
- For local printing and production on said 3D printers,
- Reducing the need for conventional product transportation,
- Which generates atmospheric carbon
This does make sense, but could it really happen?
The problem with the concept is that 3D printing must compete against conventional mass manufacturing, which is currently fantastically less expensive than 3D printing, except in certain cases.
Those certain cases are:
- Customized or personalized items
- Short production runs
Both of these are not financially effective using conventional techniques, and thus 3D printing is appropriate for them.
Until 3D printing prices approach or drop below mass manufacturing prices, we are still going to see plenty of product transportation from giant factories to end users worldwide.
That is likely not going to happen anytime soon, given the current spread of manufacturing process pricing.
If 3D printing can contribute to climate change efforts, we suspect it would be only a very small part.
Via The Bulletin