We’re reading a piece on GearFuse that reviews a short video of folks designing and printing some very cool salt and pepper shakers – but they say some things we disagree with:
But should we be at least slightly concerned about the way 3D printing seems to make plastic crap safe for hipsters? A given unit of ABS plastic requires about twice its weight in petroleum to produce. I have two words for you, young person: carbon credits.
This may be true – ABS plastic requires additional petroleum to produce and perhaps even more to ship it to your printer. But let’s consider the following:
- The amount of plastic used by a 3D printer is minuscule, compared to other common uses of petroleum. Five pounds of ABS can print hundreds of small objects and keep a printer busy for many days, but Five pounds of gasoline is less than one single US gallon, sufficient to power a typical car for about 20 miles. In other words, you’ll burn far more in one hour in a car than you’d use in a month of 3D printing.
- You don’t have to print ABS plastic. Another wonderful alternative is PLA, short for Polylactic Acid. This substance, while a tad more brittle than ABS is commonly used in home 3D printers – and it’s environmentally renewable, being derived from corn, tapioca or sugarcane. Work is underway to develop methods of mechanically recycling PLA for 3D printing. In other words, grind up your old objects into powder/filament and print new things. Of course, PLA will still require the same transport costs to your home as ABS.
- Finally, the idea of printing things at home reduces hugely polluting intercontinental shipping, because items can be produced at home without shipment (other than the raw material, which in theory can be produced locally). It’s our understanding that container ships have limited or even no requirements for pollution controls, so less shipping would be highly desirable.
We believe 3D printing will prove net environment friendly if examined at a high-level.