3D Printing Our Solutions


By Jeff Highbarger

3D printers are becoming more and more common. Amazon even has a 3D printer store on their website. How can melting plastic and reforming it into various shapes and sizes help society?   Maybe in lots of ways. The most obvious way is the potential that exists to turn old plastic into something new and useful, basically breathing new life into what might otherwise simply end up floating in the ocean. It has been estimated that Americans alone throw away more than 30 million tons of plastic each year. That is a lot incase you were wondering.   In a recent piece for the Tech Republic, Lyndsey Gilpin outlines how not only is there a great opportunity to lower our environmental impacts by using old plastic for 3D printing, but there is also tremendous potential to help a number of the extremely poor plastic waste workers around the world.   On the other hand, I did uncover this interesting short documentary about 3D printed guns while doing some research for this post, so it’s important to remember that any new tool or technology is only as useful or harmful as the user’s intent.


  1. shin1505

    Interesting, I’ve been looking into 3D printing, and I’m still trying to figure out what the true costs of printing an object with recycled material are compared to making that object from scratch. I like the idea, but I would like to have a better understanding on how it all works.

    1. stuartcuw

      I think right now the massive cost, both environmental and economic, in producing new goods is the transportation of materials and such. By cutting those cost nearly completely, I’m betting that printing with recycled material, which is already in the physical location where you want your “new” good, which will dramatically cut costs.

      I think this is kind of in line with Patagonia’s philosophy that while organic cotton might be better than normal industrial cotton, it is better still to not manufacture new goods, and rather repair the old ones. Or better yet, make them well enough to not have to repair or replace them. Same Idea, Different Decade.

  2. stuartcuw

    If you are interested in low-impact 3D printing, check out the artist Markus Kayser. He developed a solar powered 3d printer that turned sand into glass objects. While his mechanisms were rather primitive; they were a proof of concept that these things could be done. These ideas and techniques could be used to turn otherwise often “useless” desert into productive areas of land for manufacturing bricks for low cost housing, ceramic goods or other things.

  3. tesschilton

    I think this is an amazing idea. I believe that advances in technology will be one of the key solutions in the environmental dilemma we are in. I think it would be incredible if 3-D printers could take the plastic we have littered the earth with and recycle it. It could be a way of at home recycling that we could process ourselves. I hope this is something that actually comes true, there would be so many benefits.

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