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3D printing may one day be used in wastewater treatment plants around the world.

You might be surprised at how often 3D printing and water intermingle. After all though—as you’ll well remember if you try to go without it for a few hours—water is our life force. And as innovative 3D technology is used at the hands of researchers and innovators around the world to make positive transformations in nearly every industry, surely water should be included.

Whether we are discussing how to recycle water bottles in an attractive manner, adopt new methods for desalination to increase worldwide accessibility, or actually using 3D scanners to detect corrosion in older water pipes in the UK, the seeds have been planted for allowing 3D technology to play a substantial and versatile role in how we deal with water in the future, on many levels.

And while water may be a natural force, it can be expensive for humans to manipulate. As costs rise in both the water and wastewater treatment industries, numerous countries continue to examine alternate processes, but are hoping for the winning combination of affordability and newer, better technology. Countries such as India and China and the city-state of Singapore may operate as the catalysts for instituting new methods of treating water and even handling pollution. Their governments are progressive technologically, and motivated to find change in the water industry.

This is of course where 3D printing comes in to save the day, offering the opportunity for improvement and better affordability in water treatment. In a recent report published by Frost & Sullivan entitled “Blurring Boundary Lines—The Emergence of 3D Printing in the Water and Wastewater Industry,” researchers look at the issues of how some of our smart cities around the world are acting to clean up water.

In this latest research paper, it is duly recognized that 3D printing is beginning to play a role in the water infrastructure in what they refer to as ‘lower-cost’ countries. The only problem is that they see the use of this technology in the areas they looked at to be slow, and they see the outcome of what’s currently happening to be uncertain for the future in terms of making any absolute or revolutionary transformations—as we so often hear being projected from within the industry.

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3D scanners, such as handheld devices from Artec 3D, can be used to detect corrosion in pipes within the water industry, such as this example from the UK.

What is promising, however, for the potential for so many countries to make changes is that they are indeed driven to make big changes in the infrastructure of water and are looking for methods that involve benefits 3D printing can surely offer from an environmentally friendly standpoint to low cost to less consumption of energy.

Within their study, the researchers focused on numerous subjects quite familiar to this territory, looking at the ‘rising adoption’ of 3D printing within the water industry, one that we’ve certainly been following, along with the use of 3D printed membrane technology; and again, this is something we’ve been watching in the US as well regarding other projects as companies like Conwed, headquartered in Minneapolis, offer dedication to areas like filtration and reverse osmosis and have been recognized as pioneers in 3D printing items such as feed spacers. Simple designs and changes like these spacers can lead to much more, as others explore what they are currently making and implementing with success.

The researchers also quite astutely looked into what 3D printing will be able to do in terms of pumps and systems, a logical area for the technology to play a substantial role in the manufacturing of a wide range of high quality, low cost components.

The research is present and ongoing, and many companies aside from the Indonesia, China, Singapore realm are looking into using 3D printing. While this paper outlines quite slow progress despite potential, it may be other researchers like those at The Sheffield Water Centre, working with institutions like the University of Sheffield, who solve major challenges in the water industry, and really use 3D printing to propel self-sustainability along, considering that that is certainly one of the technology’s major benefits.

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Associate Professor Darren Sun, who is also chairman of the International Water Association Specialist Group on Chemical Industries, has been performed research into making 3D printed membranes for water filtration.

We’ve followed numerous stories regarding the use of 3D printing for everything from hand water pumps to 3D printed components for groundbreaking water filters and even use of the technology in larger endeavors like portable bathrooms. Neither the issue of water treatment nor 3D printing technology are going anywhere so it will be interesting to see how companies, universities, and governments around the world continue to work to make positive change, and to also work diligently on solving the issues of those without in poverty-stricken areas and developing nations. Discuss further over in the 3D Printing and the Water Industry forum at 3DPB.com.

 

 

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