3D Printing Factors Big in HP’s Sustainability Game Plan

HP is promoting 3D printing technology as part of its broader sustainability charter to reduce overall environmental impact.

HP is promoting 3D printing technology as part of its broader sustainability charter to reduce overall environmental impact.

HP is committed to scaling use of ocean-bound plastics by developing a global network for an ocean-bound plastics supply chain. Image Courtesy of HP.

3D printing will continue to play a key role in HP’s mission to create a circular and low-carbon economy—a vision and set of initiatives benchmarked in its most recent 2018 Sustainable Impact Report.

In addition to a commitment to increase recycled plastic content in its Personal Systems and Print products to 30% by 2025, the technology giant also set a timeline to power its global operations with 100% renewable electricity by 2035.  On the recycled plastics front, HP announced it used 21,250 tonnes of recycled plastic in HP products, including more than 8,000 tonnes in its Personal Systems products (an increase of 3.5% from 2017), more than 4,700 tonnes in its printing products (a much more significant increase of 280% during the same timeframe), and more than 8,000 tonnes in its ink and toner cartridge portfolio.

Design for the Environment

While the company takes aim at its lofty recycled plastics content goal, it still has some significant ground to cover: As of the end of last year, HP had achieved 7% post-consumer recycled plastic content in use in its personal systems and print products. To make good on its aggressive agenda, HP is fostering a design for the environment mindset among its global engineering workforce so everyone across the enterprise is driving toward the same sustainability goals. It is also promoting the use of 3D printing as key to creating a full-circle economy—one that starts with sourcing practices and extends all the way through what it takes to manufacture products and deliver them to market in a way that is most beneficial to the environment.

“As we engineer and design innovations in our own 3D printing and manufacturing business, we are looking at how to apply core principles like using less material and more recycled content as well as designing for repairability,” says Nate Hurst, HP’s chief sustainability & Social Impact Officer. “Consumers don’t want to make a choice between buying cost-efficient or quality products or helping the environment. 3D printing provides a tremendous opportunity to accelerate that going forward.”

As part of this new design mentality, HP engineers spend time thinking about how to make products more durable as well as easier to repair and upgrade by swapping out components and parts. 3D printing provides a way to create those interchangeable parts more easily, Hurst says, and it also enables the output of new organic shapes and consolidated parts that were just not possible with traditional manufacturing methods. “3D printing allows for custom replacement parts to be produced on demand, which extends the life of products and reduces waste,” he explains.

HP Jet Fusion 3D printers enable surplus material reusability of up to 80%, and the thermoplastic materials used to make the printers also offer potential for recyclability. Image Courtesy of HP

HP Jet Fusion 3D printers enable surplus material reusability of up to 80%, and the thermoplastic materials used to make the printers also offer potential for recyclability. Image Courtesy of HP

As far as incorporating sustainability practices into its 3D printing business, HP has a number of efforts underway, including a mandate to reduce the amount of materials used, a plan for shortening and simplifying its supply chain to better match supply with demand, and introducing new product-as-a-service options that prolong the life of products. In addition, Hurst says HP’s Jet Fusion 3D printers enable surplus material reusability of up to 80% while the thermoplastic materials used to create the printer units can also be recycled.

Part of HP’s sustainability mission involves engaging partners and customers in closed-loop, circular supply chains that harvest material waste and direct it back into to future product designs. In that vein, the company is working with partners on NextWave Plastics, what it claims is the first global network of ocean-bound plastics supply chains.

Watch this video to learn more about some of HP’s plans to achieve a Sustainable Impact.

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Beth Stackpole

Beth Stackpole is a contributing editor to Digital Engineering. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@digitaleng.news.

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