3D Printing Sociocultural Sustainability

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Handbook of Sustainability in Additive Manufacturing, 2016, pp. 51 - 72
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Additive manufacturing, more commonly termed 3D printing, could be criticized as contrary to the principles of sustainability, as it enables unregulated production that can have a negative impact on the environment if misused. However, this technology can also support value added, invested design by putting accessible digital fabrication within the reach of the designer-maker. In an increasingly homogenized world, this technology has the potential to improve sociocultural sustainability (retaining social and cultural diversity as a factor of sustainability) by supporting the practice of the individual designer-maker. The technology has the potential to contribute to the economic viability of the designer-maker, providing an effective mechanism for an artisan to compete in a global market utilising distributed manufacturing, the availability of increased geometric complexity, and the ability to customize products. This chapter provides an argument for the potential role of 3D printing in supporting sociocultural sustainability and is based on practice-led research. The impact of digital fabrication on practice for designer-makers is explored in relation to its potential to support the retention of craftsmanship skills, values and cultural referencing particular to a community, and community of craft practice.
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