It’s hard to believe, but 3D printing technology started in the 1980’s. But it is in the last decade that it’s become all the rage. Nowadays, we have a range from industrial 3D printers that can make metal parts for one off products to small Makerspace printers for schools and personal use. People have been printing all kinds of things, from pencil holders to prosthetics. As the technology has continued to develop, people have applied it toward a sustainable future.
3D printed houses
Mirreco is an Australian biotechnology company that uses hemp to 3D print houses. Yes, you read that correctly, houses. Panels are printed using hemp and are then assembled. There’s no need for structural concrete and cement used to make it. This is where we start getting into the sustainability part of 3D printing.
What is Hemp?
Hemp is a plant and as you remember from freshman biology, plants use sunlight, carbon dioxide (CO2) and water to create their own food source. Now, imagine an entire neighborhood built from hemp panels and all the CO2 those plants pulled out of the atmosphere in order to grow. Contrast that positive contribution to the environment against using cement that requires digging up riverbeds, which damages ecosystems.
The Problem with Sand
It’s strange to think that the two most used resources in the modern world are water and sand. Water makes sense because we need it to survive and it is used in almost all manufacturing processes. Sand, on the other hand, is used to make cement. Not just any sand will do though, it has to be a very special type of sand. Even stranger, the demand for sand is so high that it’s even opened up the opportunity for criminal organizations to step in and profit off certain areas where the sand is in high demand.
Reinventing the House
By reinventing how we build our houses, we’ll be tackling a few global warming problems all at once:
- We’ll be using a material that is carbon neutral. This means that the material uses the same amount of carbon as it emits into the atmosphere.
- We drastically decrease demand for cement (because realistically, not all buildings could be made from hemp). This preserves more aquatic ecosystems and damages fewer natural habitats.
- Hemp is a great insulator, so we don’t have to worry about increasing heating or cooling demands by switching over.
- Finally, hemp can be used in other industries, from fashion to electrical engineering.