Rapid prototyping through the use of 3d printers is a great method of creating plastic parts but how environmentally friendly can this process be? It all depends on the plastic material being extruded from the printer. The most common plastics used in consumer 3D printers are ABS, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, and PLA, polylactic acid. PLA is more environmentally friendly than ABS as it derived from renewable materials such as corn, however the facilities required to properly recycle PLA cause a large negative environmental footprint.
Don’t dismiss 3d printing just yet. One of the most environmentally conscious filament companies, Algix 3D, has created a filament made from algae. The algae combination results in a plastic filament that is extremely biodegradable. Additionally growing the algae doesn’t require the repurposing of valuable farmland, like with PLA. Even more surprising, the algae created filament has a better surface finish than PLA.
Using algae to produce plastic has numerous benefits due to algae’s positive impact to the environment. Algae purifies water and can grow in environments created by human pollution. It can also grow extremely quickly which is useful for a world dependent on so many plastic products.