Focus on the future: 3D printing – Trend report for assessing the environmental impacts

Keppner, Benno; Walter Kahlenborn, Stephan Richter, Tobias Jetzke, Antje Lessmann and Marc Bovenschulte 2018: Focus on the future: 3D printing . Trend report for assessing the environmental impacts. Dessau-Roßlau: Umweltbundesamt (UBA).

In the current discussions, great expectations are placed on 3D printing. Thus, technology is seen as a possible trigger of a new industrial revolution, which could bring as far-reaching changes as the invention of the steam engine, atomic energy, the microchip or the Internet. This is based on the characteristics of 3D printing: a completely new design freedom and the ability to produce products quickly, easily and individually. Innovations could be made possible and ideas realised faster. Great hopes are also combined from an environmental point of view with 3D printing. It is therefore expected that this process will contribute to sustainable production in the future - for example through material savings, waste prevention and new recycling ideas.

For the Federal Environmental Agency, adelphi and the Institute for Innovation and Technology have dealt with 3D printing as part of a trend analysis. The report describes the development, process chain, processes and materials in 3D printing, the market 3D printing as well as key players and application fields. Based on an analysis of the possible positive and negative environmental impacts of 3D printing and innovative characteristics of the manufacturing process, the report develops recommendations for environmental policy and identifies research needs.