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Journal Articles Organic Farming Year : 2013

Applications of Open Source 3-D Printing on Small Farms

Joshua Pearce
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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 are already 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: hand tools, 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 generalizable technical 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-D printers, software and 3-D printable repositories.
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hal-02119671 , version 1 (04-05-2019)





Joshua Pearce. Applications of Open Source 3-D Printing on Small Farms. Organic Farming, 2013, 1 (1), pp.19 - 35. ⟨10.12924/of2015.01010019⟩. ⟨hal-02119671⟩


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