With additive manufacturing (AM), novel parts can be designed and built with optimized topologies, eliminating the need for machining individual pieces and then assembling them. Many are hopeful that this technology will benefit the environment through a decrease in the amounts of energy and raw materials required to make components in all sorts of industries.
The Additive Report discussed 3D printing and its place in sustainable manufacturing with MIT Professor Timothy Gutowski, head of the university’s Environmentally Benign Manufacturing (EBM) research group. EBM focuses on examining the environmental effects associated with manufacturing products.
Additive Report: Can you provide an overview of the benefits of 3D printing in terms of sustainability?
Tim Gutowski: Any benefits depend a lot on the details. For lifecycle analysis claims, you’re setting up some version of additive manufacturing versus some version of a conventional manufacturing process. And one problem is that we have a better idea of the waste numbers for conventional manufacturing processes than we do for additive, because the latter is still a work in progress.
Any new technology, however promising, must be assessed for its environmental sustainability. This applies to 3D printing, also called additive manufacturing (AM), which is being developed as an alternative manufacturing technology in many fields of production. Clean technology is defined in terms of the lifecycle, greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, toxic materials, and the use of non-renewable resources.
At present most 3D printing is carried out on a small scale. However, it is expanding quickly as tools and materials become more affordable, process quality improves, and innovative techniques emerge.
According to a recent report, a Hong Kong start-up is combining 3D scanning and weaving technology to make the perfect pair of jeans, as consumers’ preferences shift from big-name brands to tech-inspired and sustainable fashion.
The start-up, based in the US, joined a Hong Kong incubator in February 2019. It is a zero-inventory “techstyle” store where jeans are only made when an order is placed. The incubator says techstyle covers material and supply chain innovation, wearables merging technology and style, and new retail experiences.
The two-year-old robotics and apparel company aims to become a zero-waste operation. It is developing a 3D weaving machine that would completely eliminate fabric waste, with plans to deploy it in stores as early as the end of this year.
3D printing is starting to break into the mainstream, and in 2018, the global additive manufacturing market was estimated to have generated revenues of $9.3 billion. By 2020, it could grow to nearly $14 billion. 3D printing is gaining popularity due to its ability to enable rapid prototyping, reduce production costs, increase supply chain efficiency and manufacture unique items. It also has the potential to be a more sustainable method of manufacturing.
Plastic recovered from discarded fridges is being re-purposed into a resilient material that can be used in the 3D printing of scale models and similar outputs. The development follows a partnership between two Dutch specialist, Coolrec, a subsidiary of Renewi, and filament manufacturer Refil.
Refil already makes a range of different coloured filaments from recycled car dashboards and PET bottles. Now it is taking the interior of fridges supplied by e-scrap specialist Coolrec to make High Impact PolyStyrene (HIPS) filament that has a neutral off white colour which is easy to paint or glue, making it a perfect material for the 3D printing of scale models. The filament comes in the two standard diameters of 2.85mm and 1.75mm and has successfully been tested on 3D printers.
Some companies that make 3D printersstick to desktop-sized units. WASP is not one of them. They do it all, from filament-fed units to giant machines that print whole buildings.
In 2015, WASP introduced the 40-foot tall BigDelta. They used it to print a basically zero-cost adobe home in about three days.
Last week they unveiled the newest addition to their lineup. It’s called the Crane WASP and it can print much larger and more complex structures.
Over the past decade 3D printing has captured the imagination of the general public, engineers and environmental visionaries. It has been hailed as both a revolution in manufacturing and an opportunity for dramatic environmental improvement.
3D printing has two key attributes that lead enthusiasts to call it a “green” technology. First, many 3D printing systems generate very little waste, unlike conventional manufacturing techniques such as injection molding, casting, stamping and cutting. Second, 3D printers in homes, stores and community centers can use digital designs to make products onsite, reducing the need to transport products to end users.
3D printing of DLE pre-mixer simplfies production process, improves geometry of the component, allowing a better fuel-air mix
Siemens said it has successfully 3D-printed and engine tested a dry low emission (DLE) pre-mixer for the SGT-A05 aeroderivative gas turbine, saying it shows a potential for significant reductions in CO emissions.
“This is another excellent example of how additive manufacturing is revolutionizing our industry, delivering measurable benefits and real value to our customers, particularly as they look to further reduce emissions to meet environmental targets,” said Vladimir Navrotsky, chief technology officer for Siemens Power Generation Services, Distributed Generation. “Our achievements using AM are paving the way for greater agility in the design, manufacturing and maintenance of power generation components.”
Tech giant outlines measures to meet its sustainability goals
HP has admitted to experiencing “challenges” in regard to its progress on sustainability, but believes innovations like 3D printing and its own PageWide technology can help it reach its green goals.
Speaking at the company’s annual Sustainability Summit in London yesterday, HP’s UK MD, George Brasher, explained how the environmental benefits of “short run printing” could play a part in countering the carbon footprint of businesses’ supply chains.
A new open-source recyclebot can help turn trash into almost anything.
It should be apparent to most people that while plastics are great to design with, they’re hard on the environment. While the U.S. has started recycling programs, the amount of plastic produced every year overshadows what gets recycled. In addition, energy is needed to collect and process materials, which can impede on overall benefit to recycling. Single-use plastics are particularly damaging. Resources and energy for a water bottle, party cup, etc. goes into the trash or back into the recycling stream, while only being used for a single drink. This has led to multiple researchers, engineers, and Makers to look for a better solution.