Print to repair

3D printing and product repair

Authored by: Miles Park

Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Product Design

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138910171
eBook ISBN: 9781315693309
Adobe ISBN:


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3D printing offers new opportunities and particular advantages for creating replacement parts. This technology is particularly suitable for producing complex forms that can be created in a range of materials on demand and at a location where they are required. A 3D printed part co-exists as a digital design that can be changed or customized as required without the need to create moulds or custom tooling. In mainstream consumer product sectors there remains few if any examples of major brands offering 3D printed parts, or print to repair services. But in specialist fields, such as medical, aerospace and the maker movement community, 3D printed replacement parts are becoming increasingly common. Additional to the many practical and economic benefits that 3D printing can bring to producing replacement parts, the technology also promises environmental benefits. As an additive technology that builds parts, layer-by-layer, material use and waste can be minimized when compared with many other manufacturing processes. Further dematerialization is possible as a consequence of producing spare parts on demand. This reduces the need to warehouse or stock certain parts. By locating 3D printers where spare parts are needed significant energy savings could be achieved, as parts do not need to be shipped over long distances. 3D printing affords the efficient and economical reproduction of parts when they are scarce or no longer available. This can extend the lifespan of products that would otherwise become obsolete.

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