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How sustainable is 3D printing in 2024?

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A 3D printer ready to be used
3D printing can be used to make eco-friendly products to increase sustainability in business | Photo: Jakub Zerdzicki

3D printing is making manufacturing more flexible, efficient, and adaptable than ever. In addition to its many creative uses, 3D printing is excellent at making eco-friendly products and might lead to sustainable production.

Sustainability means doing more with less. This mindset emphasizes energy and material efficiency and promotes a circular economy where items are reused and rebuilt. 3D printing may be utilized in many sectors and at all phases of manufacturing, from prototype to final product, to promote sustainable development.

Here are five ways 3D printing will make manufacturing greener in 2024.

Waste reduction

Additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) helps green production. Traditional manufacturing uses subtractive operations like grinding and cutting to remove raw elements from a bigger piece until a final product is made. As expected, this procedure may create a lot of trash.

Using comprehensive plans, 3D printing places material precisely where it’s required, layer by layer, to create a finished object. trash management benefits immediately, and the process’s precision saves resources and reduces production and trash disposal energy, making manufacturing more ecologically friendly.

Cutting transportation

3D printing is ideal for ordering bespoke things. By just creating things as required, companies may decrease resource waste and overstocking. Home 3D printer users may create personalized items from home, reducing the environmental effect of transporting things vast distances.

According to Rotec, a CNC machining specialist, another key to sustainability is energy conservation. 3D printing simplifies production and eliminates the need for several pieces of equipment and tools, reducing energy usage. 3D printing reduces the number of equipment and machines needed to create a product to one: the printer.

Launching the circular economy

Circular economies reuse, recycle, and repurpose. 3D printing uses recyclable and biodegradable materials without considerable processing, making output more environmentally friendly.

3D printing revolutionizes manufacturing speed, personalization, and environmental care. 3D printing reduces waste, saves energy, and promotes a cycle economy, making it a vital tool for sustainable manufacturing.

Material innovations for sustainability

Combining 3D printing with environment changes manufacturing, and new materials are key. New eco-friendly 3D printing materials are transforming the industry and providing individuals long-term environmental solutions. Sustainable materials in 3D printing and their environmental impact are discussed in this section, utilizing recent advancements.

Eco-friendly 3D printer fibres

With more and more attention being paid to the environment, 3D printing materials should have as little negative effect as possible. A lot of 3D printing has been done with plastics, but recently the 3D sector has come up with several eco-friendly materials, such as Polylactic Acid (PLA), a plant-based plastic that can be recycled. These materials break down on their own, which is better than plastics made from oil. They also lessen the damage that 3D printing does to the earth.

Although the transition to sustainable materials in 3D printing is excellent for the environment, further research, commercial collaboration, and public awareness are still needed to make 3D printing a truly greener option in the long term.

One major issue is the rise of 3D-printed plastic waste, with printing processes like stereolithography (SLA) and digital light projection (DLP) currently employing petroleum-based thermosets, which contribute to increased plastic waste.

However, as technology evolves, we will also learn how to incorporate 3D printing into a sustainable way of manufacturing by developing new eco-friendly materials that cause less of a negative impact on our environment.

Olivia Miller is a journalist and blogger regularly collaborating with media outlets and writing about entrepreneurship, brand authority and corporate social responsibility (CSR).

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How to use AI to scale your business

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AI can be utilised by all types of companies, from small startups to established firms. | Photo: Jason Goodman

The moment you decide to scale your business is incredibly exciting. Maybe you’ve got a great idea for a new sector or product you want to bring to your existing customer base. Or, you want to take your business from a part-time endeavour and make it your full-time livelihood. Regardless of your reason for deciding to scale up, it’s a significant commitment. As a result, you may be struggling to find the time to get started.

Taking the next step in your business can often feel like you’re venturing out of your comfort zone, but modern technology solutions are on hand to help. Artificial intelligence (AI) is breaking down barriers for entrepreneurs and big business owners alike, allowing everyone to benefit from time management, invoicing and creative tools that previously may have required another hire within the team. That’s not to say that AI can replace humans; but for those at the start of their scaling journey, it can represent a smaller financial commitment before taking the plunge and hiring a full-time expert or assistant. Plus, it can speed up many repetitive or data-heavy tasks.

In this post, we explore four ways AI can help you to take your business to the next level.

Find more leads to target

Unless you’ve got an inbox full of customers just waiting for you to release new products or services, the chances are that you’ll need to be proactive when it comes to getting new leads and converting those into sales. Trawling the internet to find stockists, brands who might want to work with you or even just looking through your own database of people who have purchased something previously is extremely time consuming.

AI can take on these tasks for you, meaning that you simply have to review the information and then decide on whether to get in touch with these contacts personally. Additionally, it can help you with creating customer personas and gathering audience insights, hopefully increasing your chances of success once you do pitch.

Increase your marketing capacity

Part of running a successful business is being known and seen in the marketplace, allowing you to remain competitive. In the modern world, that means you need to cover a huge variety of platforms, each with their own unique content strategy. Considering that includes everything from social media to email newsletters, that gives you a lot to do.

AI can help by creating outlines for emails or posts that you can then review and add your personal touch to, significantly reducing the time you need to spend on this task. Or, it can take content you’ve already rewritten and repurpose it for a different platform and audience, allowing you to extend your reach with minimal effort.

Automate and track your finances

Hopefully, as you increase your offering, your number of sales will also increase – but with that comes a rise in the number of invoices you need to create. Financial tasks are one of the areas where AI can be invaluable, as it’s a data-oriented process, which is where this technology tends to excel.

Setting up your business on a platform that works with AI can allow you to automatically generate invoices when a certain trigger is hit – for example, the day after you’ve delivered a service for a client. Plus, it can recognise when invoices haven’t been paid, sending the customer a reminder that their bill is due.

From an accounting perspective, AI can track and categorise your expenses and income. Especially when you take on more employees, this can be incredibly useful, saving you hours of time and hassle when it comes to closing the month.

Gain key data insights

Making the right decisions about which direction to take your business in can be hard. You may have a gut feeling about which markets to target or products to create, but without evidence, it can be difficult to take the risk and put money behind this decision.

AI can help you understand the trends that are happening in your industry, as well as forecasting the impact certain decisions will have on your business. Whilst things can always change, having some data-driven insights into what your future might look like can help you understand how it might be best to progress.

Supercharge your business

AI is a tool that can be utilised by all types of companies, from small startups to established firms. Rather than looking to replace human input, AI can act as a helpful assistant, reducing the financial and time risk associated with scaling.

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Names and physical addresses of 49 Million Dell users leaked

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The data reportedly encompasses information on systems purchased from Dell between 2017 and 2024

This week, US technology company Dell notified customers about a data breach involving customers’ names and physical addresses. While Dell states that the accessed database contained limited types of customer information related to purchases from the brand and believes there is not a significant risk to its customers given the type of information involved, the company acknowledged yesterday (May 9) that the data accessed via its portal also includes hardware and order information, such as service tag, item description, date of order, and related warranty information. According to Dell, the information involved does not include financial or payment information.

Upon identifying the incident, the American company founded in 1984 says that it has “promptly implemented our incident response procedures, began investigating, took steps to contain the incident and notified law enforcement”. Dell has also engaged a third-party forensics firm to investigate this incident.

On April 29th, the tech website Daily Dark Web published an article disclosing that a hacker was selling access to a database that allegedly contains 49 million Dell customer records. The data reportedly encompasses information on systems purchased from Dell between 2017 and 2024, and the stolen information would include full names and addresses.

Dell suggested customers to check a page with tips to help avoid tech support phone scams

What to do if you have been affected by Dell’s data breach

In an email sent to its customers on Thursday (May 9th), Dell informed them that an internal investigation indicated their information was accessed during the incident. However, the company stated that it doesn’t ‘believe there is significant risk given the limited information impacted.

You read it correctly: Dell doesn’t believe that attackers gaining unauthorized access to 49 million users’ names and physical addresses, leaked due to a data breach, poses a significant risk. The company signed off the warning email suggesting that people “should always keep in mind these tips to help avoid tech support phone scams. If you notice any suspicious activity related to your Dell accounts or purchases, please immediately report concerns to security@dell.com.”

The linked blog page, posted in 2018, offers tips such as ‘hang up immediately if you receive a suspicious call’ and ‘hang up if an unsolicited caller pressures you to act quickly.’ However, it is unclear why Dell is informing people about phone scams, as the company states that the recent data breach, which involved the leak of physical addresses of 49 million Dell users, did not include email addresses or telephone numbers.

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AI experts explore ethical video tech for patients prone to falls

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Dr Alan Godfrey and lead researcher and PhD student Jason Moore
Dr Alan Godfrey and lead researcher and PhD student Jason Moore

Video-enabled glasses have the potential to support patients at risk of falls by allowing medical staff to monitor how they move around their homes and their community. However, with privacy concerns at the forefront of this new technology, academics at Northumbria University have carried out a cutting-edge study into the ethical use of AI to ensure video footage can be obscured to ensure patient privacy.

Traditionally patients at risk of falls have been assessed based on information they provide themselves in diaries or during short in-clinic observation appointments. However, these do not provide clinical teams with objective, digital data on how patients move around outdoors and in their home environments – the areas in which they are most likely to have a fall.

Trials of inertial wearable technology worn on the lower back – similar to that used in a smart watch – to track patients’ walking movements, known as gait, are proving valuable but there are still pitfalls due to a lack of contextual information around where a patient is, who they are walking with and what activities they are carrying out.

In a bid to both improve, and personalise, patient care for those at risk of falls through illness or age, experts have been keen to explore how they can improve assessments and gain a fuller picture of what might be contributing to any abnormal gait data captured by the wearable devices.

Asking patients to also wear video-enabled glasses will provide much more accurate information on how they move depending on their surroundings, including obstacles and other hazards, where they are at the time and what might be putting them at increased risk of falls.

However, although the use of video technology has many potential benefits, patients wearing these video-enabled glasses – and their families – must be able to maintain their privacy.

In a bid to test how these privacy concerns could be overcome, a group of computing and digital health experts ran a technology pilot to test the application of new AI software that can blur personal data and information captured by video glasses – for example photographs around the home, footage of children or confidential paperwork.

They found that the AI software could successfully analyse the raw video footage and detect and blur details such as faces, letters and laptop or phone screens, ensuring patient privacy could be maintained.

Their research has now been published in Nature Digital Medicine.

Dr Alan Godfrey, Associate Professor in Computer and Information Sciences at Northumbria University, said: “As you can imagine the variability in how people move when they’re completing different tasks is enormous.

“The data or information provided from an inertial wearable device attached to someone when they’re wandering around their house will inevitably differ from the same person when they’re outdoors or walking more quickly to get somewhere or to keep up with someone. This means that while the use of an inertial wearable alone is helpful, it tells us nothing about the context in which a fall may occur.

“Having absolute clarity about the environment and what people are doing is key.”

He added: “We wanted to assess how new developments in AI would allow us to provide video-enabled glasses that would allow medical staff to observe patients’ movements in real environments over a longer time period without invading their privacy.”

The paper demonstrates that by combining information from the wearable device that records gait data with footage captured by video glasses which is obscured where necessary thanks to the ethical use of AI, clinicians have a much more comprehensive picture of how patients’ move in their own surroundings.

This could lead to significant improvements in the accuracy of patient fall risk assessment and in the decision-making process around patient care.

Speaking on the study, lead researcher and PhD student Jason Moore, from the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at Northumbria University, said: “Traditionally the use of video within the home has caused some apprehension among patient populations as a result of privacy concerns owing to what else may be captured on camera.

“However, through the use of AI software that can identify and obscure personal or sensitive information we can effectively capture the contextual information that will allow us to better understand abnormal gait data, whilst overcoming the concerns patients may have around the use of video technology in their own homes.

“The benefit of providing this contextual information is that clinicians will have a fuller picture for each individual patient which could ultimately allow them to provide more informed care plans and potentially keep more patients in their own homes for longer.”

The research involved experts from Northumbria’s departments of Computer and Information Sciences; Nursing, Midwifery and Health; and Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, as well as representatives from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, and the Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne & Wear NHS Trust.

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