Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2015

Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies (MES)


Environmental Science


Professor Van Buren


3D printing has the potential to become a disruptive technology by cutting down on the environmental and time costs associated with traditional manufacturing processes. For example, supply chains and product storage could essentially be eliminated if product design became entirely digital. Although 3D printing is potentially highly beneficial for the environment, awareness of 3D printing’s impact on the environment is essential for healthy development and should be addressed before the technology is used on an industrial scale. The purpose of this research is to discuss the environmental aspects of additive manufacturing. By objectively examining 3D printing sustainability claims and case studies, an understanding of 3D printings’ environmental effect on society will be made. The research takes an interdisciplinary approach, analyzing economic risks, carbon and ecological footprints, and how the field is currently regulated, in addition to how it may be regulated in the future. By using historical and market data, a clear understanding of the 3D printing market can be established. I will examine the various methods used to formulate the industry’s environmental impacts. By examining case studies, 3D printing’s environmental impact will be evaluated. Focusing on what current laws and regulations apply to 3D printing and what laws could be applied in the future, the research aims to understand how environmental costs are and should be minimized.