3D Printing – Risks and Opportunities

Goods manufactured with 3D printers can save resources in the production process and can reduce warehousing, transport costs and packaging. However, at the same time, the materials used are currently still restricted mainly to plastics and metals, and there is a danger that resource savings are cancelled out by the limited choice of materials and an associated increased use of certain feedstocks. To what extent savings can result and risks to the environment can arise in future depends on the applications for which the technology is employed.

These are the main findings of a study undertaken by Oeko-Institut on behalf of The Greens/European Free Alliance group in the European Parliament, coordinated by Reinhard Bütikofer. The scientists’ research provides an overview of what the technology can do at present, characterises potential uses for 3D printers, and analyses opportunities and risks from an environmental perspective.