How can we make additive manufacturing more circular and inclusive?

The way we manufacture is changing. New developments in 3D printing have led to the rise of additive manufacturing – 3D printing at an industrial scale. Globally, additive manufacturing is set to continue growing and is one of the cornerstones of the next industrial revolution. As the technology continues to develop and mature, the question is how can we harness this disruptive technology to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) more effectively and efficiently?

Additive manufacturing and the SDGs

Like all disruptive technologies the wide scale adoption of additive manufacturing will bring with it advantages and disadvantages. How can we maximize the benefits from a development perspective? We see two major challenges to overcome in this context. Firstly, the plastic used for 3D printing is almost entirely virgin and it is challenging to recycle. At a time where the earth is over saturated with plastic waste, this is poor systems design. Secondly, how do we ensure that this technology is inclusive and that low-income countries benefit fully from additive manufacturing’s promise?

Additive manufacturing offers several potential advantages for low-income countries. One key benefit is that it is less capital intensive than conventional mold injection manufacturing. This allows companies to be profitable with small production scales and to more easily and cheaply diversify products. It reduces the need for imports, allows countries to move up the value chain and offers an opportunity to tailor products to better meet local customer needs. Additive manufacturing could potentially offer countries an opportunity to leapfrog into industrial competitiveness.

How can countries best seize this opportunity? How do we ensure that entrepreneurs and the workforce are aware and prepared to take advantage of this technology? What are the specific opportunities for low-income groups?

If additive manufacturing was more circular and offered new opportunities for inclusion in low-income countries, what would such a system look like?

  • No waste would leak into rivers and oceans.
  • Waste pickers would have decent work opportunities within the waste management system
  • Local entrepreneurs would have the knowledge and resources to set up local additive manufacturing hubs.
  • Communities would have access to knowledge and tools to recycle plastic locally into useful end products.
  • 3D printed products would be made from recycled and inclusive polymers and at their end of life 3D printed products would be recycled back into to the system
  • And ultimately, plastic will be able to be broken down safely into compounds that can be used for other purposes. This type of chemical recycling would create a truly circular economy.

How can we get there?  

Endeva is organizing an event this June that aims to begin to answer these questions. It’s called Inclusive Innovation 2030 (ii2030). Over 2 days we will co-create 3 separate technology-led solutions to global challenges by bringing the right set of actors into a design thinking and systems change process. It will be fun, it will be interactive, but, above all, it will be a powerful engine of change. By the end of the 2 days we will have a roadmap for at least one possible solution for how to make additive manufacturing more circular and inclusive. The last event was a success and led to real partnerships doing groundbreaking work.

Who would we like to participate?

  • Additive manufacturing companies
  • Organizations creating recycled 3D printing filament
  • Corporate manufacturers and users of plastic resins and products
  • Entrepreneurs using 3Dtechnology in a low-income country
  • Packaging companies and material scientists focusing on decomposable plastics
  • Development partners experienced in working with waste picking communities
  • Sustainable production and consumption policy makers

Join us this year in Berlin on June 5 and 6!

Interested? Get in touch with Tendai if you would like to participate!