What is it about?

This editorial explains that additive manufacturing/3D printing is of interest to industrial ecologists for a variety of reasons. These include the potential for localization of production and the potential for reduction in transportation of goods, zero-waste manufacturing, and increased availability of spare parts. 3D printing is also one of a series of technologies that have been viewed as, by its very nature, leading to environmental improvement. And, 3D printing is yet another technology on which life cycle assessment (LCA), a key tool in industrial ecology, can shed light regarding environmental benefits and impacts.

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Why is it important?

Much of the research on the environmental impact of additive manufacturing/3D printing is done by mechanical engineers (examining energy use in specific production processes) and environmental health specialists (studying exposure of users of the technologies to air pollutants and hazardous materials). The editorial explains how these types of research relate to the broader scope of industrial ecology research, for example, how it can inform life cycle assessments and strategies for the circular economy.


I wrote this editorial to speak to the core audience of the Journal of Industrial Ecology -- industrial ecologists -- to make clear what the connection is between the different bodies of research. This editorial is meant to complement a longer editorial by guest editors in which they discuss the findings of the articles in the special issue on environmental dimensions of additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

Reid Lifset
Yale University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: 3D Printing and Industrial Ecology, Journal of Industrial Ecology, October 2017, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1111/jiec.12669.
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