Product policy opportunities related to domestic 3D printing

Panel: 7. Appliances, product policy and the ICT supply chain

This is a peer-reviewed paper.

Authors:
Jonathan Wood, Tenvic Ltd., United Kingdom
Catriona McAlister, Sea Green Tree S.L., Spain

Abstract

Developing resource efficiency policy to address a moving target such as an innovative technology is a challenging undertaking. This study analyses how policy makers could approach the highly innovative area of 3D printing. 3D printing is undergoing such rapid expansion that constant monitoring is necessary to keep track of developments in the field. Environmental policy currently in place does not adequately address the environmental impacts of domestic 3D printing, which relate to energy, resource use, emissions and waste. This paper outlines the opportunities for policy to have a powerful influence on the growth of the technology, diverting it from a potentially damaging path to one that positively improves the environmental impacts of domestic 3D printers. Projections of impacts of 3D printing show the potential savings that are achievable if policy makers act now could be higher than those predicted for ecodesign policy approaches addressing the conventional home printing area. There are many opportunities throughout the 3D printer lifecycle for policy to have an influence – from the design stage to end of life. The foundation to policy work in the area will be the development of testing approaches and standards. Voluntary initiatives, accreditation schemes, endorsement labels, subsidy schemes, and user information can build upon these. In parallel, the creation of an evidence base projecting environmental impacts of 3D printing (for example an ecodesign preparatory study) can provide a valuable justification for environmental actions to be undertaken in the area. This can then provide solid support for the development of 3D printer specific regulatory requirements and/or labelling in the medium to longer term. Fast tracking this process could result in significantly more savings in the long term as environmental design features are encouraged in 3D domestic printers at an early stage in their development.

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