3D Printing Goes Green
University of Washington leads the way for environmentally minded additive manufacturing.
What’s for dinner? Upload “steak,” press print, voila: 24-ounce rib eye. Or maybe you need a liver transplant? That’s on its way, too. The business of 3D printing, manufacturers predict, will be the next trillion-dollar industry. It’s known more formally as “additive manufacturing,” or layering materials to form a structure, and there seems to be very little limit to what that structure can be. At the University of Washington, the student-run Washington Open Object Fabricators club—or WOOF—printed a boat made out of melted plastic milk jugs this past July. And it floats. The club also helped the engineering majors win first place—and $100,000—in the 3D4D Challenge in London in October for their proposal to turn wasted plastics into raw materials for latrines and water-collection components. Teaming up with local nonprofit Water for Humans, WOOF will manufacture these items on their large-scale 3D printer. WOOF president Matt Rogge says he hopes 3D printing will become a humanitarian industry, reducing waste and improving sanitation around the world—and maybe, just maybe, amending the environmental mantra to read: reduce, reuse, recycle, reprint.