3D printers are the most powerful machines ever invented because they can make finished products—with all their parts—fully assembled. They may also be the greenest machines ever built.
Driven by a digital blueprint, these printers build layer upon layer of fused ceramics, glass, sand, plastic, metal, or other materials. In contrast, traditional manufacturing depends on assembly lines, lots of low-cost labor and mass production. Today, much of that manufacturing takes place in far-off lands, and products must be shipped in long and complex supply chains that extend around the world. All of this has a large energy footprint.