Tracing sustainable production from a degrowth and localisation perspective: A case of 3D printers
- 1. Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), Akadeemia Tee 3, 12618, Tallinn, Estonia
- 2. Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Technical University of Crete, Akrotiri Campus, 73100, Chania, Greece
- 3. Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance, Tallinn University of Technology (TalTech), Akadeemia Tee 3, 12618, Tallinn, Estonia Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University, 23 Everett Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA
An emerging commons-oriented mode of production that combines globally accessible knowledge with distributed manufacturing has recently been presented as a better fit for sustainable degrowth and localisation, compared to incumbent practices. To tentatively test this potential we select the case of 3D printers. The production of 3D printers varies within a spectrum from proprietary and industrially produced to open-source and locally manufactured. We compare different 3D printers within this spectrum, adopting a values-based life cycle analysis tool that allows for a critical evaluation of the sustainability of 3D printers from a degrowth perspective. An emphasis on the prospects for sustainable localisation is given at each life cycle stage. We find significant advantages of open-source 3D printers in terms of education, experimentation and maintenance, and enhanced conviviality in case parts of their manufacturing is localised. Still, to a large extent their manufacturing process remains a highly centralised process, hindering additional benefits, and coherence with sustainable degrowth and localisation. We conclude with insights on how openness in terms of materials production and proper documentation of the manufacturing process, as well as a multi-level organisation for local production could lead to more sustainable practices.