Traditional manufacturing is harming the environment. That’s something we have known for years. And with the continuous increase in consumption it seems inevitable that this harm will continue. But what if 3D printing could be the solution to this massive problem?
Additive manufacturing, with its flexibility and endless material opportunities, can spark a circular economy by way of printing with recyclable materials and printing biodegradable products. A circular economy is a restorative and regenerative system in which resource input and output are minimised by way of design. 3D printing with recyclable and/or biodegradable materials would reduce the amount of resources we need to extract. A few additive manufacturing companies are already working on developing materials and printers that are focused around recycled and biodegradable manufacturing. But what if more companies took on this approach?
Take an area such as food, for example; if we could develop a way to breakdown waste food and turn it into a filament or printable material, then the impact of additive manufacturing could be limitless. If more fast-moving consumer goods manufacturers also started adopting this technology, 3D printing would lead the way to a more sustainable future (in terms of production)!
Now this is all well and good, but how do we get there? The answer is simple. Talent.
The impact of this trend on talent will be big, and the demand for certain capabilities and experience will change in a number of ways which the talent needs to prepare for.
#1: Change in AM talent demand
Firstly, companies are likely to be scouting for R&D people, more specifically bio-engineers, biochemists, and biophysicists, that can develop environmentally friendly materials. Talent can prepare for this by getting education and training within these specific fields, to make sure they can adapt to this change.
#2: Mechanical and machine design specialists
There will also be an increase in demand for mechanical engineers and machine design specialists, so that they can further develop the design and capabilities of the 3D printers to enable them to produce products that are currently difficult to print, such as food or bio products. Keeping a creative mind, combined with continuous learning and training, is the best way to keep improving the machines.
#3: Incorporate the circular economy principle – now!
Besides getting experience and training in these specific fields, there are other ways the talent can prepare for this shift of focus. The best way would be to look at the basic principles of a circular economy and then ensure that what they do reflects that. If you are developing a new printer then perhaps this could be the time to try and incorporate renewable energy or recycled materials into its production. Make sure you are at the forefront of this change in focus, because it is going to happen.
Creating something that is either environmentally friendly or automated could be the way to really provide AM the place it deserves in the circular economy of the future.
And a system which makes better use of waste, removes the throw away culture developed by retail over the past century and that has a better ethical impact, is exactly what we need.