The useful life of a machine should not be dictated by the availability of a single part and this is now no longer the case with the application of 3D printing. The rise of the circular economy has led to a new way to fix things.

3D Printing: Cutting Edge Technology for the Circular Economy

Contributed by | BuyAnyPart

Recycling is the hot topic of the moment and everyone’s keen to get involved in the movement, with the internet full of helpful articles giving information, tips and advice on how to make a difference. Let’s apply that to products used on a daily basis; bikes, cars, washing machines and tractors - when they break, recycling is definitely a better option for the environment over consigning it to the rubbish tip or scrap yard. But what about extending the product life cycle instead?

There’s many benefits to repairing and restoring these kind of items. Firstly of course, new products can be expensive and not everyone can afford a full replacement. Secondly, the product may be out of warranty and having a professional repair it can also work out to be costly. Spending a little time to restore and repair something is also really rewarding and we at Buy Any Part supply people with the information and equipment to be able to do this.


Circular economy

This all relates back to something called a circular economy. In basic terms, this refers to a regenerative system in which long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, re-manufacturing, refurbishing and recycling all help to achieve a sustainable world. This is in contrast to a linear economy, which more of a ‘take, make, dispose’ model of production.

A number of debates in the last few years have explored how transitioning into a circular economy can positively impact global waste management and drive the world in the direction of sustainable developments. In order to really make a difference, existing business models and supply chains need to adopt this way of working, as well as ordinary people in their everyday lives.

The video below was created by circular economy pioneers Ellen MacArthur, and reinforces the idea with a powerful animation.

Missing parts

So, how does repair relate to a circular economy? It all comes down to the fact that we are wasting too much in today’s society. We live in a throw-away culture where we replace instead of repairing. This issue is to some extent caused by parts needed to fix a piece of equipment becoming obsolete or so hard to get hold of that it isn’t economically viable to fix it.

In many cases, especially in that of older, antique or limited types of equipment, parts cannot be found through traditional repair services. In other cases, parts may be available but due to their scarcity, suppliers may want to charge a premium in both the parts and service. That’s not even taking into account the time you’d spend researching said part and where to find it.

It’s not hard to see why so many people chose to simply throw away the product and replace it with something new. This throw-away ethos is preventing a circular economy from functioning.


3D printing

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is something that is really changing the game when it comes to the circular economy, named in the press as the potential locomotive of the ‘Second Industrial Revolution’. It is essentially the process of making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many thin layers of material in succession. 3D printing isn’t a single technology, but a collective of different additive manufacturing methods.

Brand giants such as Ford, Mercedes Benz, Siemens and many more have been switching on to circular economy principles piece by piece by adopting 3D printing technologies in their conventional manufacturing scheme. By rapid prototyping, they have been able to reduce their operational costs, increase their profits and gain a competitive advantage in their respective sectors.

A new way to fix things

Now 3D printing is becoming the centrepiece of the repair economy. This technology makes it feasible and puts repair and replacement into the hands of the consumer. It can reproduce unavailable and obsolete parts that were previously impossible to buy, with limited waste and without the endless searching for the source.

The useful life of a machine should not be dictated by the availability of a single part and this is now no longer the case with the application of 3D printing. The rise of the circular economy has led to a new way to fix things. By refocusing on extending the life of useful equipment and keeping products and materials in use, it is now possible to not only envision, but to participate in a repair economy that was not possible before and one which eliminates many of the headaches mentioned above.


Buy Any Part’s passion

This is where Buy Any Part’s passion comes from - we believe that people have the right to repair their products and machines. We look forward to create solutions for even the most difficult of repair tasks, relying on our countless collaborations with customers, brands, part suppliers and 3D printing third parties. The unique aim of our online platform is to gather buyers, sellers and service providers in our repair specific marketplace to make repairing simpler than ever.


The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of ManufacturingTomorrow

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