You may not know it, but agriculture is one of the industries starting to make the most of the cutting-edge technology that is 3D printing.
The benefits of 3D printing for agriculture include:
Agriculture and technology are increasingly working together. Food production, farm equipment, farming products, 3D printing is a great asset and simplifies a lot of processes. 3D printing is the perfect tool for customization allowing agricultural engineers and farmers to adapt.
For agriculture, this mass-customization aspect is giving farmers a competitive advantage. Using 3D printing, tools are adapted to specific use applications. Using digital manufacturing is a great way to manufacture objects that you have designed for your particular needs.
3D printing in agriculture can be used for both for prototype and production. 3D printing adds great value to any prototyping process (e.g. fit and form testing). As new resistant 3D printing materials become available on the market, more farmers and engineers are finding ways to use 3D printing for production as well.
Use our online 3D printing service to test various projects without first investing in 3D printing equipment.
Moreover, with 3D printing farmers can print certain parts on-demand, especially useful in remote areas.
See a few applications where 3D printing is being used in agriculture …
Farmers in Myanmar using 3D printing to create tools
Additive manufacturing is a great technique to improve some processes that are already existing. It can help farmers to manufacture traditional equipment and tools. That is exactly the technique used by farmers in Myanmar.
They were first using CNC machines to prototype their tools, but it was quite slow and expensive. Including the 3D printing technology in their production process helped them to create quality tools more quickly and improve their manufacturing process. This way, they can totally adapt the tools to their use and improve their farming activities. Moreover, for this kind of use, desktop 3D printer are great because they allow them to print directly on place.
3D printing in African agriculture
In some African countries such as Togo, farmers still have a difficult access to mechanized equipment. Sénamé Koffi Agbodjinou, founded an African digital fablab, he designed a 3D printer and built it only using waste and electronic components he found in the street. This 3D printer is working perfectly and helps local farmer to prototype their own tools. This additive manufacturing technology actually boosts their crop yields as they are free to produce all the tools that they need.
3D printed machine parts for agriculture
Most of the time, farmers are working with specialized machines. These are massive and expensive machines. Even to replace just one part, it can be quite expensive. Or the part that the farmer is searching for is maybe not on the market anymore. In this case, additive manufacturing is an amazing solution. Just like for the automotive industry, it is possible to print spare parts for farming machines. That is exactly the project of GVL Proto Poly. They are actually receiving a lot of 3D printing demands from farmers looking for new parts for their machines.
This project requires large 3D printers. With the quick evolutions made in the 3D printing industry, it will be soon more convenient to 3D print large parts like these in only one time.
3D printing for urban farming
The company Farmshelf has developed an autonomous system allowing anybody to start a smart indoor farm. Developing a new business is hard and quite expensive. Thanks to 3D printing some entrepreneurs are able to save time and money by using additive manufacturing to develop some parts of their project. And that is what the compan Farmshelf did.
3D printing allowed them to design the right parts for their project like mounting brackets and plant hangings. Then they were able to print custom parts quite quickly and test them. This would have been more expensive and would have taken more time with traditional manufacturing technique such as injection molding.
Small-scale organic farms in developing countries using 3D printing
Michigan Technological University’s Dr. Joshua Pearce made a whole study on how open source 3D printing could help small farms. Indeed, most of the world’s organically managed land is located in developing countries. And the thing is that farmers located in these countries are using labor-intensive tools. Thanks to additive manufacturing, it is possible to manufacture other efficient tools that could fit better the use of the local farmers. It could help organic farms, but also animal and water management!
Sustainable indoor garden using 3D printed connectors
Here is the project of an Italian start-up Hexagro Urban Farming. This company is trying to innovate with urban farming and hanging gardens. They choose to 3D print the little connectors of their Living Farming Tree:
Here is what a 3D printed connector look like:
These connectors can be adapted to any use of the tree and to the specific needs of the customers. The design can be customized to fit any place. This Living Farming Tree will be brought to the market quickly as the 3D printing technology is actually improving the whole product development, by making it really easier for Hexagro Urban Farming.
For more details about Hexagro Urban Farming, check out the video below:
3D printing to test agricultural devices
A Canada-based company has produced 3D printed parts in order help test a high-technological crop seeding system. Additive manufacturing is here really useful for the Research and Development department, allowing to test a whole device and create many iterations in order to develop the best product possible.
The ultimate part is made of cast iron and carbide because the parts need durability and strength. But for the test process, 3D printed parts can actually hold up the physical pressure. As it is really cheaper to test a 3D printed parts, and the process is also quite simple: they just have to modify their digital 3D model to get a different part. This way, they are able to make as many iterations as they need to develop their project. Thanks to this technique the company saved a lot of money!
Metal is expensive, and metal 3D printing is expensive too. That is way using another resistant 3D printing material is perfect for these kinds of projects.
The future of 3D printing for agriculture
A lot of applications are already possible in the farming sector using 3D printing, but it will certainly evolve in the upcoming years and become even more integrated into agriculture. Indeed, this technology has many benefits to bring to the farming sector, from tools to more elaborated devices. We obviously need more 3D printers in agriculture, the use of the 3D printing technology needs to be developed.
The 3D printing industry still has a lot to offer to agriculture. 3D printing in agriculture will certainly become more common.
More and more projects are bringing together 3D printing and recycling. For example, 3D printing could be a great solution to recycle plastic or metal materials laying around a farm. These materials could totally be used to recreated new tools or any other useful 3D printable device.