Electrical and Computer Engineering Publications

Life-Cycle Analysis of Distributed Manufacturing

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Encyclopedia of Sustainable Technologies

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With the open source sharing of the RepRap, a self-replicating rapid prototyper, low-cost 3-D printing is now a technically viable form of distributed manufacturing for a variety of products. In addition, the subsequent development of the recyclebot, an open source 3-D filament extruder, enables raw materials to be sourced from the household waste of a prosumer-one who produces that which he or she consumes. Millions of free and open source designs are now available on the Internet, and as this article shows using life-cycle analysis, prosumers can radically reduce both the economic costs of goods and the environmental impact as compared to conventionally manufactured goods by utilizing the most aggressive form of distributed manufacturing: making the products they need at home using digital designs created from what would otherwise be their waste. Finally, some of the most likely future technical developments will be reviewed to provide guidance into the potential for distributed manufacturing in the future and the subsequent effect on the environment.

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