One of the key technologies underpinning the 4th industrial revolution (4IR) is 3D printing – also known as Additive Manufacturing (AM).
The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) estimates that 3D Printing / AM could be a $5 billion industry by 2020 and can reduce energy costs by 50 percent and cut material costs by 90 percent.
3D printing is a manufacturing process that prints three-dimensional solid objects directly from a digital plan, offers the potential for rapid, cost-effective, high quality, complex and on-site manufacturing. 3D printing has the potential to “combine the solidity, durability and strength of the industrial age, with the nimbleness, flexibility and adaptability of the virtual age.” This mix will be critical for addressing the complex challenges of a rapidly changing and uncertain world – not the least of which are the security risks of climate change.
Its main advantage in the fight against climate change is that it can allow for cost-effective greenhouse gas reduction for societies seeking greater energy efficiency in manufacturing processes and products. It will also empower civilians to take things into their own hands and design and print the devices and items they envision using to confront extreme weather conditions. The ability to share open-source designs and empower grassroots knowledge of the technology is probably 3D printing’s greatest overall contribution to combating climate change.
3D Printing – A Bridging Technology to a Better World?
Could 3D printing save our reefs? The WWF estimates that 50% of the world’s coral reefs has disappeared in the last 30 years. One group of international experts – including D-Shape, Reef Design Lab and Reef Arabia – is using 3D printing to replace damaged reefs around the world.
3D Concrete Printing Concept Could Solve Tall-Wind Dilemma: When building a wind turbine, you want to make it as tall as possible to capture stronger, faster winds aloft. But taller tower bases become too large to be transported over the road—a constraint that has kept average U.S. wind turbine heights at 80 meters for the last 10 years. A Lab-Corps project undertaken by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has found a potential solution: automated concrete manufacturing.
3D Printing: Secret Weapon Against Climate Change? 3D printing could slash the carbon footprint of manufacturing and provide nifty solutions for a disaster-prone world.
As the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists explains, “the ability to print replacement parts for generators, water filters, or temporary shelters—on site—may become a critical and inexpensive tool of climate adaptation, particularly in zones of instability and conflict.”
While the verdict is still out on how seriously the world’s wealthiest governments are taking climate change science and recommended preparation measures, it’s clear that 3D printing can contribute in multiple arenas in helping us prepare for the possibility of increasing catastrophic weather events.