3D Printing and the Incremental Greening of Our Lives
One of the promises of easy, affordable 3D printing is that it will make our lives a little bit more sustainable. If you have access to 3D technology, and you break an everyday object around your home, you can (at least in theory) print out a quick replacement part. Fixing's important. As Jane ni Dhulchaointigh wrote in the amazing Fixer's Manifesto, if we double the life of our stuff, we halve what goes to landfill. We can avoid all of the enormous energy and material costs that go into buying something new.
Here's a great animated video (in Spanish, but easy to understand based on the images alone) that imagines a new world where 3D printer repairs are the norm:
3D printing's getting more accessible all the time. Today, Staples announced that it will add 3D printers to selected stores in Europe. If you happen to live near a Tech Shop, you can stop by to print something out, even if you're not a member. Autodesk offers easy-to-use software that includes an option to save a file locally or send it to the nearest printer. If you've got the cash, you can buy your own MakerBot.
Along with making repairs, you can use 3D printers to make your own products and avoid the store completely. Read more on 3D printing's sustainability benefits by an engineering student who worked on several projects with Autodesk last summer.
Beyond the sustainability benefits, the technology is also just fun. You can, for example, print out tiny action figures of yourself in the newest 3D photo booths and if you visit New York this winter, stop by the MakerBot store to print a free 3D portrait of yourself.