... could this possibly turn out as the Third Industrial Revolution?
In the distance, there are rolls of colourful candy strings stacked together next to a buzzing little white box. To our surprise, as we got closer to this obscure box that flashes little sparks and twinkling lights, we discovered that it is in fact, a miniature 3D printer. The rolls of candy strings are actually rolls of Nylon, CPE (co-polyester), and other manmade materials. It is currently busying itself away crafting some glow-in-the-dark snowflakes. As we watch on in amazement, the technician came and explain to us that this is a small piece of ground-breaking technology we are witnessing. And what’s even better? It only costs €1.800 to own it.
It seems as though this dream of having a 3D printer in every household is finally becoming a reality. For a price of approximately one to two iPhones, we are able to afford something that allows us to create and print out bundles of “stuff”. And not only so, various industries have been for a long time working on how to utilise this exciting technology to successfully materialise things “out of thin air”. FutureCraft4D, sports giant Adidas’ new project, aims at giving its customers the ultimate experience and comfort by using 3D printers to print out sneakers that would match your footprint elements, including contour details and pressure points. Tempting isn’t it?
However, every fairytale has an evil witch or a mean stepmother. In this case, we discover that there are also many speculations surrounding this thrilling new technology that may lead to some serious health and environmental issues. In a nutshell, 3D printers melt plastic and turn it into something we can hold in our hands or use. However, this process can send potentially harmful ultrafine particles (UFPs) and toxic fumes composed of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air surrounding the machinery where users can breathe them in. One study has shown the effects of which equates to smoking cigarettes indoors, it include nausea and headaches, particularly for those with pre-existing heart or respiratory problems. Furthermore, for those who are more environmentally concerned, a 3D printer consumes almost 100 times the amount of energy on average to make an equivalent item.
As the 3D printing industry and enthusiasts claim, the ultimate goal of this revolution is for us to be able to minimise wastes and eventually, lead us to a cleaner and more eco-friendly future. This is both good news and bad news. It’s bad because this technology is still evolving, and unfortunately it will take sometime until we get there. But thankfully, on the bright side, we have a promising future to forward to.