An award-winning team of journalists, designers, and videographers who tell brand stories through Fast Company’s distinctive

An award-winning team of journalists, designers, and videographers who tell brand stories through Fast Company’s distinctive lens The first conviction for 3D printing a firearm was recently reported in London, not long after 3D printed masks were used to trick face recognition. Should we be afraid? 3D printing refers to a range of digital fabrication processes that build objects directly from computer models, without expensive tooling, in layers of material. Although 3D printing processes vary widely, including melting metal powder with lasers or hardening liquid plastic “ink” with ultraviolet light, most people tend to think of 3D printing desktop machines that melt spools of plastic. Since these are often built or designed by enthusiasts, they are very affordable, with some models costing under $250. 3D printing is not without its problems. But we research the realities of 3D printer usage by businesses and consumers and so can dispel some common fears around 3D printing. Designs for a “gun” that could be produced on a desktop 3D printer were first shared on the internet around 2013. While this may have been a powerful political statement, a single conviction and no rep...

Navigating the fast-changing landscape of bioplastics and biomaterials

Edible seaweed pods that hold drinking water. Inedible banana leaves around perishable food. 3D printing from corn starch. Diapers made from eucalyptus wood.  Small and big companies looking to meet current buyer demand from consumers and retailers, swerve incoming regulatory levers and leverage recent technological innovations are pursuing new (but also, rather, incredibly old) solutions that downplay our reliance on petroleum-based plastics — alternatives that are sourced from plants. The scope of the sources of these products is wide-ranging. In some cases — mostly for applications centered on packaging, consumer goods and some building materials — companies are seeking ways that fossil fuel-based plastics can be swapped out entirely for materials found in nature. In many “plant-based” products, though, the “plant” material is actually a form of bioplastic. These are materials created when the carbon in the carbon-containing compounds is sourced from plants rather than oil or gas, be it from corn to sugar to rice to vegetable oils instead. (While most bioplastics have a lower carbon footprint than conventional plastics on paper, there’s still...