A common criticism drawn by 3D printing is that it is not a truly green manufacturing solution. While yes, the additive nature of the process means little raw material is wasted during production of an item, the most commonly used consumer 3D filaments are markedly unsustainable. ABS does not biodegrade at all, while PLA can take decades to break down.
Two Dutch designers, Oliver van Herpt and Joris van Tubergen, may this week have come up with an interesting alternative: an extruder that can print in beeswax.
Strange as it sounds, beeswax actually comes with a huge number of benefits for designers and artists looking to print an item. As well as being readily available, produced online casino naturally by Apis honey bees in their hives, it comes with a very low melting point (about 62 degrees Celsius) and hardens very quickly once extruded. Plus, unlike ABS, it is non-toxic and boasts no unpleasant, artificial odour.
Best of all, from the perspective of van Herpt and van Tubergen, however, beeswax biodegrades, meaning any 3D printed item made from the material will not end up in a landfill or in the ocean. As van Herpt explains in his blog post announcing the process, designing and manufacturing new objects is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you are pushing things forward by introducing a new item that will be helpful or perhaps even life changing for the end user. On the other, you are adding more things to a world full of things, many of them ending up as pollutants on a polluted planet.
This new, sustainable manufacturing process could change that. The duo think printing in beeswax will be particularly suitable for the creation of temporary, disposable products that have a limited, short period of usefulness before being thrown away.
It’s a bold and exciting potential answer to the riddle of green 3D printing.