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Applications of Open Source 3-D Printing on Small Farms

Listed author(s):
  • Joshua M. Pearce

    (Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Michigan Technological University, MI, USA
    Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Michigan Technological University, MI, USA)

There is growing evidence that low-cost open-source 3-D printers can reduce costs by enabling distributed manufacturing of substitutes for both specialty equipment and conventional mass-manufactured products. The rate of 3-D printable designs under open licenses is growing exponentially and there arealready hundreds of designs applicable to small-scale organic farming. It has also been hypothesized that this technology could assist sustainable development in rural communities that rely on small-scale organic agriculture. To gauge the present utility of open-source 3-D printers in this organic farm context both in the developed and developing world, this paper reviews the current open-source designs available and evaluates the ability of low-cost 3-D printers to be effective at reducing the economic costs of farming.This study limits the evaluation of open-source 3-D printers to only the most-developed fused filament fabrication of the bioplastic polylactic acid (PLA). PLA is a strong biodegradable and recyclable thermoplastic appropriate for a range of representative products, which are grouped into five categories of prints: handtools, food processing, animal management, water management and hydroponics. The advantages and shortcomings of applying 3-D printing to each technology are evaluated. The results show a general izabletechnical viability and economic benefit to adopting open-source 3-D printing for any of the technologies, although the individual economic impact is highly dependent on needs and frequency of use on a specific farm. Capital costs of a 3-D printer may be saved from on-farm printing of a single advanced analytical instrument in a day or replacing hundreds of inexpensive products over a year. In order for the full potential of open-source 3-D printing to be realized to assist organic farm economic resiliency and self-sufficiency, future work is outlined in five core areas: designs of 3-D printable objects, 3-D printing materials, 3-Dprinters, software and 3-D printable repositories.

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File URL: http://www.librelloph.com/organicfarming/article/download/214/pdf
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File URL: http://www.librelloph.com/organicfarming/article/view/214
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Article provided by Librello publishing house in its journal Organic Farming.

Volume (Year): 1 (2015)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 19-35

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Handle: RePEc:lib:0000of:v:1:y:2015:i:1:p:19-35
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  1. Shrestha, Rajendra B & Gopalakrishnan, Chennat, 1993. "Adoption and Diffusion of Drip Irrigation Technology: An Econometric Analysis," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(2), pages 407-418, January.
  2. Paul Winters & Rinku Murgai & Elisabeth Sadoulet & Alain de Janvry & George Frisvold, 1998. "Economic and Welfare Impacts of Climate Change on Developing Countries," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 12(1), pages 1-24, July.
  3. Debbie L. King & Adegboyega Babasola & Joseph Rozario & Joshua M. Pearce, 2014. "Mobile Open-Source Solar-Powered 3-D Printers for Distributed Manufacturing in Off-Grid Communities," Challenges in Sustainability, Librello publishing house, vol. 2(1), pages 18-27.
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