7 Ways AM Boosts Sustainability

Here's how 3D printing transforms manufacturing to be more sustainable.
How can your company transform sustainability from an idea into reality? The answer lies in additive manufacturing or 3D printing. These manufacturing technologies offer new ways to address environmental challenges while keeping businesses on the cutting edge. For business leaders and engineers alike, understanding the intersection of innovation and sustainability of concepts is more than just an opportunity – it’s a necessity.

The Environmental Challenges of Traditional Manufacturing

Traditional manufacturing methods have served us well for centuries and will continue to do so, considering their efficiency for large-scale production. However, these manufacturing methods come with a range of environmental challenges. The high energy usage, extensive waste generation, and greenhouse gas emissions tied to these methods are a growing concern in our quest for sustainability. As businesses strive to minimize their environmental footprint, additive manufacturing is emerging as a viable and beneficial solution. Here’s how additive manufacturing helps boost sustainability.

Start Your Manufacturing Project with MakerVerse

MakerVerse is your platform for sourcing industrial parts, providing instant access to a vetted supply chain and a full range of manufacturing technologies. With AI-powered quoting, order management, and fulfillment, MakerVerse helps with everything from initial prototypes to full-scale production.

Get Quote

Reason 1: Reducing Waste

The first significant advantage of additive manufacturing is its approach to creation: it’s a process of building up rather than carving out. Traditional methods often involve cutting away material to form a final product, which results in a significant amount of waste. The leftover powder from the Laser Powder Bed Fusion technology can often be reused. In contrast, additive manufacturing builds products layer by layer, using only the needed material. This means less raw material usage and minimal waste production. Excess powder can often be re-used for the next project, making additive manufacturing incredibly sustainable.

Reason 2: Energy Efficiency in Additive Manufacturing

Traditional manufacturing processes, especially molding or machining, can be energy-intensive. Conversely, additive manufacturing processes are inherently more energy-efficient. Compared to traditional manufacturing, additive manufacturing reduces energy usage by 25%. The beauty of additive manufacturing is not just in its precision but also in its ability to reshape our understanding of energy efficiency in manufacturing.

Reason 3: The Material World is Sustainable

Additive manufacturing is driving innovation in sustainable materials. This manufacturing method has unlocked the potential of using biodegradable and recycled materials. For instance, companies are now exploring using biodegradable thermoplastic derived from renewable resources.

Reason 4: A New Era of Efficient Design

Additive manufacturing enables a level of design freedom that was previously unimaginable. Traditional manufacturing methods come with constraints – undercuts are tricky, hollow structures can be impossible, and complex internal geometries are a fabricator’s nightmare. With additive manufacturing, these constraints are no longer a concern. You can create structures optimized for function over form, saving material without sacrificing strength. A prime example is Siemens Energy, which utilized additive manufacturing to create a new generation of turbines. With new 3D-printed designs, they cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30%.

Reason 5: Localize On-Demand Production

Additive manufacturing brings the concept of local production back into the limelight. By leveraging technologies like 3D printing, businesses can produce goods on-demand, closer to the end consumer. This minimizes the need for long-distance shipping and its associated greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, localized production creates more resilient supply chains. By reducing dependency on faraway manufacturers, businesses can weather global disruptions more efficiently, adding another layer to the sustainability of additive manufacturing.

Reason 6: Extending Product Life

Additive manufacturing offers a unique way to extend the lifespan of products. When one part fails, you can print a new part instead of replacing an entire product. This reduces waste and contributes to a circular economy, where resources are used for as long as possible. Companies across various sectors are harnessing this potential. Automotive and aerospace industries, for instance, are using additive manufacturing to produce spare parts, often enhancing their performance compared to the original parts.

Reason 7: Reducing Overproduction and Inventory Waste

Additive manufacturing naturally aligns with a lean manufacturing approach. As parts are made to order, businesses can effectively eliminate overproduction. There’s no need to manufacture large volumes of products or components upfront, reducing the need for warehousing and its associated costs and resource use. This made-to-order approach minimizes inventory waste, a common issue with traditional manufacturing, where surplus products often end up in landfills or are incinerated. By producing only what’s needed when it’s needed, additive manufacturing contributes to more efficient resource use, further underlining its sustainability credentials.

Embracing Additive Manufacturing – A Pathway to Sustainability

Additive manufacturing is an opportunity to reshape how we produce, consume, and think about products. From reducing waste and energy usage to promoting localized production and resource efficiency, the benefits of additive manufacturing extend beyond business profitability. If you’re ready to embrace additive manufacturing, we want to help. Through MakerVerse, you can quickly and easily source 3D-printed parts (as well as parts made from other technologies). Turn your designs into a reality with our platform, which offers instant quotes and short lead times.