3D Printers: Banned?

Gartner Analyst Nick Jones postulates banning consumer 3D printers in the future due to environmental concerns. He suspects we’ll accumulate vast piles of non-biodegradable plastic bits, much like we accumulate paper today that comes from our 2D paper printers. Jones:

But as one of my clients pointed out yesterday, do we really want an affordable domestic fabber? Fabbers will likely “print” objects using some form of plastic. So the inevitable consequence of mass market fabbing will be a huge increase in the amount of non-biodegradable plastic waste clogging up the planet for hundreds of years into the future. Should we maybe ban fabbers before the problem arises? Like most problems there are solutions, like biodegradable plastic. But if we wait until all the problems with a technology are solved before we permit it, then we will waste a decade or two of potential value; and in any case there’s no way we can predict all the social and environmental issues associated with a new technology before it arrives.

We agree that there is no way to predict the future, but that’s how innovation occurs: let people find the new paths through new technology. As for plastic, many 3D printers do print in various forms of plastic, but as Fabbaloo readers may recall, there are experiments or even commercially released processes using non-plastic materials, such as metal, glass or ceramics. Other 3D printing also involve biodegradable material such as paper, wax, rubber, sugar, pasta, nutella  or even living cells! A prime example of environmentally friendly (and inexpensive) 3D printing is MCOR’s paper-based 3D printer.

While the big commercial 3D printing manufacturers focus on exotic print materials, smaller projects try pretty much anything in their devices. And they are the ones who will identify the environmentally friendly solutions.

Via Gartner

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5 Responses

  1. The most things are already stated correctly. Also just think of all the useless stuff made worldwide, often in plastics, sometimes ugly, beeing transported around half the world, beeing stored, nobody really needs, ending in the garbage. I think it's a hundred times more useful to produce only what you need, when you need, where you need. Imagine the overhead in CO² and what not else we could save.

  2. Nick Jones' argument is ridiculous on its face. Maybe he should focus his environmental concerns on industry before proposing to eliminate personal freedoms with a broad stroke of tyranny. After all, industrial manufacturers will most likely still produce the feedstock. When personal 3D printing goes mainstream, regulation of feedstock materials may or may not be appropriate, but banning consumer 3D printers is absurd. I'd love to read the original post, but it no longer appears on the Gartner site, and Nick Jones is no longer listed among Gartner's bloggers. What a surprise.

  3. I don't think the 3d printers are and issues if you compare to the millions of plastic parts that are already made everyday through traditional plastic injection molding techniques.

    A 3d printer may take 15, 30min or even 6 plus hours to make one part. A plastic injection molding machine can produce part between 3-60 seconds depending. Injection molding machine could out produce 3d printer 1000-1.

  4. There are biodegradable plastics that folks like the reprap team are experimenting with.

    Furthermore, a significant amount of the plastic that goes into landfills is PACKAGING. There's no need for packaging if you can manufacture the object yourself.

    Now that I think about it, the packaging manufacturers trade-groups have a vested interest in seeing desktop manufacturing FAIL.

    I'd start paying attention to the packaging association's trade groups and the types of legislation they advocate for. I doubt it will be good for home-fabrication.

    -S

  5. There advantages of home 3D printing, the CO2 given out by transporting goods to your home and then the rubbish away has got to be significant compaired to the energy used making the goods.

    If thermo plastics are used then old products could be melted down at home and made into new items eliminating both sets of transport.

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