From aerospace to food – how 3D printing is making businesses more profitable and sustainable.

2 years ago   •   3 min read

By Marga Hoek

3D printing has the power to disrupt the traditional low-cost global manufacturing business model and help businesses become more sustainable at the same time. Marga Hoek, a thought-leader on sustainable business, explains. 

How does 3D printing actually work? 

Let’s say a start-up has an innovative new idea for a product. Instead of entering into a costly and time-consuming process of finding a manufacturer to develop a prototype, they purchase a 3D printer for as little as US $250. They use this to build their prototype from a digital file in minutes.

The speed, economy and flexibility of this process gives them the ability to be more innovative with the materials they use, the intricacy of the design and helps them to perfect it quicker. Once the product is designed, they can then build the product on the spot, with zero waste and, where possible, can use recycled materials to manufacture it. 

Then, instead of creating the product and shipping it around the world, at great expense to both them and the environment, local producers can build the product using a 3D printer anywhere in the world – and even personalise the product to individual markets or people. 

3D printing is as transformative for established, global companies as it is for startups. It’s a quicker and cost-effective and more sustainable way to manufacture goods. The size of the market is accelerating rapidly. The total value of 3D printed parts increased by a staggering 300 percent in 2019 and the industry as a whole is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 26.4 percent between 2020 and 2024.

There has been growth in the global shipments of 3D printers to nearly 7 million this year, as well as a surge in the number of additive manufacturing patented applications to over 30,000. The venture capital market raised huge funds in the sum of over $1.1 billion by 3D printing startups in 2019 alone. 2020 is set to see even bigger results.

So then, what lessons can we learn from the companies who have already embraced 3D printing? Here are a few examples of companies at the forefront on the technology: 

ReDeTec

In response to market demand to eliminate waste and increase efficiency, ReDeTec’s unique product uses technological advancement to take 3D printing to a whole new level.

ProtoCycler is an all in one recycling system for 3D printers, which allows businesses to make their own filament from recycled waste and virgin plastic pellets.  To eliminate waste after printing, this company created an additive manufacturing solution that is also a recycling system with the ability to recycle the majority of the most commonly used plastics and other additive materials on the market. It is the only 3D printer on the market that has a grinder included, which recycles 3D printer waste and turns it back into filament. 

ReDeTec also uses its own patented state-of-the-art extrusion technology, with fully automatic built in diameter feedback that produces exact 3D printer filament for every use. By allowing users to creating their own spools from virgin plastics, businesses can reduce the cost of 3D printer filament spools by up to 80%. As the only automatic filament extruder on the market, ProtoCycler has been precision engineered to meet the exacting requirements of desktop filament production efficiently.

Airbus & EOS

3D printing can help increase the sustainability of the aerospace industry. Airbus engineers have found that additive manufacturing is the most efficient approach for creating satellite parts. Using titanium, the designers and engineers actualised many of the benefits of 3D printing: the lack of waste led to cost savings, part consolidation reduced the hours spent in assembly, the optimised geometry resulted in higher performance without the constraints of traditional manufacturing and the lightweight components created fuel savings for the entire project. 

EOS, one of the leaders in industrial 3D printing of metals and polymers, proves that additive manufacturing can produce weight reductions of between 40 to 60 percent. The company has enabled the average corporate aircraft that travels 75,000 miles per month to benefit from a single component that is designed and manufactured with 3D printing (and is therefore lighter). This part reduces air drag by 2.1 percent, which in turn reduces fuel costs by 5.41 percent.

Genetics

Research suggests that humans waste approximately $1 trillion worth of food across the world annually. Innovative startups, such as Genetics, are battling food waste by turning it into something of use. Under this novel structure, food waste is converted into biodegradable plastics. Using the power of biotechnology, machine learning, and microbial engineering, the team at Genetics is able to create a form of plastic from food waste that can be used to create more sustainable toys, medical devices, and 3D printer filament.

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