In the United States alone, around 1.6 billion disposable pens are thrown away each year. While these small, everyday items have a functional lifespan of just a few months, the plastic waste that is left behind takes thousands of years to biodegrade.
Rethinking the traditional pen is the British stationery company Paperchase, which recently teamed up with the London-based startup Batch.works to develop biodegradable stationery for its new line called Conscious Living.
Paperchase employed the 3D printing know-how of Batch.works to bring these environmentally-friendly pens to the market. Both the pen pots and ballpoint pens are 3D printed using bioplastic materials.
Julien Vaissieres, a former architect who founded Batch.works in 2016, started the company with the aim to offer micro-scale production of 3D printed products.
“3D printing has been used for prototypes, engineered parts and high-end objects for decades. At Batch.works we revolutionised slow, rigid and costly traditional manufacturing methods with a radically more efficient 3D printing process. Bringing 3D printed products to your local shop and the hands of people. These are the first steps towards a new way of making things sustainable,” Vaissieres said.
To create the stationery, Batch.works used desktop FDM 3D printing and biodegradable PLA filament produced from sugar cane. In a press release detailing the announcement, the startup explains that it was able to produce 30,000 parts at the East London-based headquarters in just two months.
This is quite the feat for desktop 3D printers, but the simplicity of the design made it easy to achieve this relatively sizable production batch. For example, the paperclip only took two minutes to print, while each pen pot was produced in around 20 minutes.
The Conscious Living collection isn’t the only project that Batch.works is working on. In fact, Vaissieres also stated that his startup is on a more ubiquitous mission to unite 3D printing and sustainability, while also reviving local manufacturing across the world.
“One of our longterm goals is to replicate this in other cities, so global designers can produce locally at a fraction of the cost of traditional manufacturing, drastically reducing supply chain waste… That’s the dream,” Vaissieres explains.
Not only is this is the first time 3D printing has been used to produce a bio-stationery collection of this kind, but it’s also a grand example of how the technology can be used to make products that are more sustainable and eco-conscious. Outside of the 3D printed pens, the Conscious Living collection also includes non-printed products like lunch boxes, keychains, scrapbooks, coffee mugs, and more.