The main concept that developed during the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century was that goods could be manufactured by machines, thereby lowering costs and increasing the availability of many items to a much larger group of people. But up until recently, it only made sense to produce thousands or even millions of copies of a particular product in order to spread manufacturing costs among customers.
Unfortunately, one consequence of this process is that it creates a lot of waste. Cheap plastic goods like toys, appliances and containers are tossed out because they were made but not sold, they didn't meet the specific needs of the customer, or they broke and were rendered unusable. But 3D printing a new process that enables a person to produce any object out of basic materials, could have major implications for the relationship between consumers and their stuff.
The 3D printing process allows a person to build just about any object from a design file on a computer. The file is sent to the 3D printer, a electronic machine which constructs the object by melting and sculpting small beads of plastic, resin or metal. The costs of this technology have declined significantly over the last few years, and there's no reason to believe this trend will stop any time soon, meaning it won't be long before you could have one of these devices in your house.
There are many green benefits to widespread adoption of 3D printing. Users could create objects that are customized to meet their needs exactly, they could make more durable, high quality goods that will last longer than the mass-produced equivalent, and the cost of printing is miniscule, meaning that citizens of developing countries have as much to gain as those who live in rich nations.
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