I hate the term 4D printing. Abhor it. I was horrified when I saw it quicker than anticipated gain currency in our market and in the lexicons of journalists. But, in order to print a future for ourselves and this planet, I’ll happily jump on the wordforge myself in order to help us all. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that Industrie 5.0 is a bit of a stretch. But, it seems logical and this is all you need really. So what is Industrie 5.0? Industrie 5.0 is the autonomous design, development, and manufacturing of goods in a sustainable way. Using learning algorithms, big data, 3D printing, robotics, and automation the future of manufacturing will be more precise, on-demand and respect our scarce energy resources. Manufacturing is no longer about making the most things but making the right things at the right place at the right time. Using recycling systems, renewable power and resources, and energy reclaiming systems goods will be designed for sustainability and for many efficient lives in many forms. Natural, recycled and recyclable sources will replace those that deplete the earth and software, automation and intelligent systems will monitor, optimize and reduce waste throughout the entire supply chain.
Happily I think I’ve managed to come up with something that almost everyone could get behind. If we look at supply chains holistically and in a cradle to cradle manner (and beyond into new goods for many decades!) we could come up with truly sustainable products. If at the design stage people started with which materials were available where and what they could be turned into later we could use the intelligence in the system to plan goods’ many lives throughout their many recycled iterations. We could design for optimizing low waste and low land usage while taking into account factors such as the availability of other products and the need for prioritization. More efficient industries help save the planet. More holistic looks at the entire supply chain and how things are made and distributed will bring savings for everyone in the value chain, especially the oft-forgotten planet.
The black bloc man kicking in a Mcdonald’s window may not like commerce, industry or 3D printing. But, if we could prove to him that there was a new future to believe in where a select group of companies were embarking on a journey towards lower waste and more environmentally friendly technologies and futures he may kick in their windows less. An environmentalist may not like a polymer chemist or industrial engineer until she sees that they to now with Industrie 5.0 are working actively towards a no-carbon future. A farmer may get the Heebie Jeebies from industry but would welcome a group of firms that are actively working for a greener world. A leftist politician will always distrust automation but if it is coupled with a greener planet and brighter future may find it in his heart to help out. Potentially with Industrie 5.0 we have a future that many people can believe in.
Industrie 5.0 gives us a technological business solution to the fact that our planet is dying. Industrie 5.0 could potentially unite many disparate people under one umbrella where building technology does not equate destroying the planet. If we as a 3D printing community want to engage with Industrie 5.0 we will have to be mindful of being as sustainable as possible while advancing the march towards better-suited end-use parts. Thermohardend or post-printing and curing heated stereolithography parts are a good example of this. On the one hand these parts are definitely much more world friendly than previous generations of resins. These materials are thermosets and can not be recycled, however. In some cases, these materials and their processing aids may be carcinogenic. Are these parts and processes that fit into an increasingly environmentally conscious world? If we’re a niche technology with mostly B2B applications, who cares but as we move into larger and more visible use cases we too need to make a choice. Environmentalism for us can not be an afterthought. So, on the one hand, the burning resins may be the future but on the other hand, we kind of already know that they’re in the past.
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