Positive Plastics And 3D Printing

3D printing is transforming our relationship with plastics

In recent years, plastic pollution has been heralded as one of the biggest environmental issues on the planet. By 2050, it’s thought that there could be more pieces of plastic than fish in the sea. This, along with statistics about plastic’s long term impacts on our air and health has motivated companies and the public alike to evolve the way we use and dispose of plastic products. 

Climate crisis awareness is vital, but a more motivational alternative is to showcase the impressive companies and incredible projects underway, inspiring and altering our attitude to plastic. Change is happening – in healthcare, transport, education and beyond. So let’s talk about it. 

3D printing is a brilliant example of technological advancements shifting the way problematic materials are stored, used and disposed of in various industries. 

A 3D revolution

One of the main issues with manufacturing is that outsourcing materials and tools can often be both costly and detrimental to the environment. As 3D tech advances and becomes more accessible, businesses will (in the near future) be able to print large products and prototypes with ease. Alongside the convenient nature of not having to consider transporting materials, 3D printing will eventually be a more affordable option for companies to consider. 

Another issue with manufacturing  is excess material needing to be disposed of. Regardless of recycling and biodegradable options, this is still a waste product which can be avoided. Luckily, 3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing, which means that the process only uses as much material as needed. This makes 3D printing a preventative production method, avoiding unnecessary surplus. Developers are also introducing greener materials to the printing process. Currently, the technology uses a combination of recycled plastics – including polyethylene terephthalate.  

So, long-term, 3D printing cuts costs and improves manufacturing issues. But how have applications actually created change? Alongside applications in the electric car industry, there have been several applications worth noting. Nano Sun, a startup based in Singapore, opened a factory to manufacture 3D printed filtering membranes which can remove pollutants from waste water.

A team of US scientists recently announced in Science that they were able to print functional tissue from collagen, making the future of organ printing appear ever closer. For the millions worldwide waiting on organ transplants, 3D technology could one day transform their lives. 

Adam Feinberg, professor of biomedical engineering and co-author of the paper writes: “What we’ve shown is that we can print pieces of the heart out of cells and collagen into parts that truly function, like a heart valve or a small beating ventricle.” 

In Greentech, Disruption50 finalist and waste packaging business Advanced Sustainable Developments are creating recycled plastic pellets for manufacturers to use. The transition to cyclical recycling methods is one many could learn from. 

A new approach

Not only is creating positive environmental change the right thing to do, it is also a case of supplying what the public are seeking… It’s been found that 56 per cent of customers go out of their way to buy from the most innovative companies.

Introducing new technology is key for disruptive businesses, but it’s natural to feel hesitant, especially with concerns about environmental impacts. 3D printing is one of the technologies allowing us to thrive and channel this concern into positive creation. 


Interested in emerging tech and maintaining sustainable strategy? Join us at Disruption Summit Europe . 

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