How On-Demand 3D Printing Could Cut Waste, Increase Efficiency (Video)

There are a lot of great ideas floating around Poptech this year -- I've already covered plenty of them. But I also wanted to highlight something that isn't strictly or necessarily green, yet that could end up having some interesting implications on supply chains and mass production. And that's on-demand 3D printing, an idea being pushed by a startup company called CloudFab. This type of production could have a number of environmental benefits, including reducing waste and transportation emissions -- I'll let CEO Nick Pinkston explain. Those 600 printers he mentioned are scattered around the nation, so products can be produced locally and delivered with minimal transportation costs (both economic and environmental).

Now, if you want to manufacture 5 million Happy Meal toys, 3D printing isn't your ticket. But if you're going to say, make 500 medical devices, toys, novelty items, or whatever, 3D printing could do the job. This can eliminate the need for inefficient assembly lines and energy expenditures:

Much of 3D printing utilizes plastics, and Cloudfab isn't the most pointedly sustainable business idea around. But it could trim a lot of waste and rearrange production paradigms -- and as Nick will tell you, current 3D printing technology can create just about any product you can imagine (gears, moving parts, are no problem). And they can tailor each individual product with customized parts and design, ensuring that the product is better suited to its target -- and less likely to become waste in the short-term.

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