The use of recycled materials together with the mass customization and faster end-to-end cycle times that 3D printing enables promise to advance the incidence of the circular economy.
When it comes to 3D printing materials, you won’t come across a more popular choice than plastic – there are all sorts of plastics to choose from, and it’s also the cheapest of the 3D printing materials. However, plastic definitely has its issues – landfills around the world are filling up with plastics, and the material is depleting fossil feedstocks, as well as forming CO2 in production and combustion processes. A team of researchers with the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) in Moscow have developed a 3D printable polymer made entirely from biomass that negates these issues.
Additive manufacturing processes are typically better for the environment than other forms of manufacturing, but plastic waste is still a worldwide issue. Plastics are made up of a range of synthetic, or semi-synthetic, malleable organic materials, and many efforts have been made to use recycled plastic to 3D print objects like prosthetics, leaves that make up a floating Christmas tree, bee boxes, and supplies for astronauts in space.