Construction 3D Printing study criticised: author responds with “challenges and opportunities”

Recent articles on 3D printing in construction have sparked a lively debate. Igniting that conversation was a paper on the potential benefits of concrete 3D printing. The co-author of that paper is Mustafa Batikha, an Assistant Professor at Heriot-Watt University.

Published last year, the study found that if a two-story structure built via precast concrete in the UAE had been 3D printed using a three-leaf printed cavity wall instead, the contractors’ material costs would’ve actually risen 44%.

This was due primarily to the expensive concrete needed for the build, as it was estimated that the proposed 3D printing method would be cheaper to carry out. Contrary to the often-cited eco-friendly benefits of the technology, the paper also showed that adopting it would only yield marginal sustainability gains. 

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London Borough of Hackney has high hopes for 3D printing technology in circular economy push

The London Borough of Hackney recently awarded £600,000 in grants via its Hackney Central Impact and Ideas Grant Fund, supporting local businesses pushing the circular economy.

The program involved a total of 23 green enterprises, including Batch.Works, an East London design and manufacturing studio using 3D printing to upcycle plastic waste into useful products. Riding off the back of the initiative, the Hackney Council is now actively encouraging other local businesses to partake in discussions regarding the circular economy, all in a bid to cut waste, reuse materials, and slash emissions.

Guy Nicholson, Deputy Mayor for Delivery, Inclusive Economy, and Regeneration, said, “It is all too easy to jettison some of our ambitions to reduce emissions, support the creation of a circular economy and play our collective part in transforming Hackney’s local economy and placing it at the forefront of the net zero carbon economy of tomorrow. Despite the challenges we face, the Council is determined to support the borough’s business owners to create the economy of tomorrow.”

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Sustainability – Is Additive Manufacturing a green deal?

In the paper “Sustainable Additive Manufacturing”, the consultancy Roland Berger scratches below the surface and examine the reality behind the hype. What it finds is a more nuanced picture: Additive manufacturing can indeed make a potentially vast contribution to carbon-neutral economies. However, it must become more transparent about those areas where it still falls short. It must openly assess every phase in the lifecycle of AM-produced parts – AM materials production, parts manufacturing, parts useage and disposal/recycling – to showcase its true potential and benefits. It must also work hard to genuinely improve its overall environmental footprint .

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Using standards and design guides for Additive Manufacturing

Understanding additive manufacturing standards helps the AM community achieve reliable processes, including the critical design for AM. Several gaps between existing and needed standards for design were identified in the Additive Manufacturing Standardization Collaborative (AMSC) Standardization Roadmap for AM. In 2021, America Makes and ANSI brought together subject matter experts from industry, government, and academia for a discussion to lay the groundwork for further development and refinement of the DfAM aspects of the roadmap.

AM experts discussed the importance of design standards; sharing that design involves materials properties, meeting regulatory requirements, building confidence, as well as tools to communicate consistently and better education. Built into any consensus standard is experience of those who have identified best practices allowing everyone in the community to benefit from both their successes and failures.

Additional discussion included identifying how the needs for DfAM have changed in the last couple of years, why the needs are changing, how AM design standards different from more traditional manufacturing technologies, and the unique quality considerations, particularly with the progressively more complex designs enabled by AM. With all of this complexity, the participants also noted an increased availability and use of analytical and simulation tools specific to the design and workflow for AM.

A complete report on the workshop including slides and transcript are available on the ASMC website.

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How important is sustainability in additive manufacturing?

During Formnext 2021, the four-day international trade fair for additive manufacturing, we saw new and optimized machines, innovative materials, software packages and post-processing solutions and applications. In recent years, it has become clear to many manufacturers, but especially to users, which technologies and materials will continue to dominate the market in the future. Instead of numerous new innovations, the focus is now on product optimization as well as optimization of the AM supply chain. Furthermore, in addition to the goal of creating more effective machines for series production and automating production processes, both of which are helping to solidify AM’s presence in Industry 4.0, sustainability is also becoming a main focus in the development of additive manufacturing. But what specific demands does the market place on companies? And how are they facing up to current and future challenges? We were out and about at Formnext and were able to talk to some of the exhibitors about this and find out more about the aspirations of the different players in AM.

As a process in itself, additive manufacturing already represents a more sustainable means of production. This is particularly evident in the fact that 3D printing eliminates the use of excess material and thus unnecessary waste virtually from the outset. The ability to use generative design also plays an important role in terms of part optimization and is one of the main advantages of 3D printing compared to traditional manufacturing methods. In addition, a 3D printer enables on-demand manufacturing. This not only saves time, but also eliminates the need for long transport routes and storage areas, consequently reducing CO2 footprints.

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3D printing clean(er) and more sustainable energy and parts

Can AM play a part in tomorrow’s sustainable energy mix and will it be worth it?

Wind turbines are one source of renewable energy that is target in Joe Biden's platform

Establishing additive manufacturing as a truly sustainable production method inevitably entails powering tomorrow’s 3D printers. Small polymer systems require minimal power, but farms of thousands of machines, larger PBF systems and especially metal systems do and will require massive amounts of energy to function. 3D printing can facilitate distributed manufacturing, which means that products will be less reliable on transportation, so the main challenge in making AM more sustainable is by powering 3D printers using clean energy.

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3D printing offers new sustainable supply chain paradigm

3D printing establishes a new era for sustainable manufacturing.

These days, there are several companies that put sustainability in the driver’s seat. If they intend to realize a net zero carbon, fully regenerative economy while reducing overall environmental footprint, sustainability must underscore everything.

Adobe Stock 137317687

Any company aiming to remain competitive and viable beyond this decade is redefining its business priorities around accelerated, expansive change that is also better for the planet. More and more leaders are asking themselves whether the world can be transformed by rethinking their approach to design and manufacturing. However, true resiliency requires looking beyond a company’s own operations to its entire ecosystem.

When HP surveyed global digital manufacturing and 3D printing decision makers in late 2020, an overwhelming majority (89%) said they were changing their business models, and at least nine out of 10 were investigating new and more sustainable supply chain models. One reason is because supply chains are a conduit to widespread sustainable innovation, but only where there’s a willingness to redefine manufacturing paradigms.  

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Ford, HP turn 3D printing waste into parts

Ford and HP are looking to make 3D printing technology more sustainable. The giants of industry are teaming up to reuse spent 3D printing parts and powders for vehicle parts, minimizing waste in the process.

a fuel-line clip for the Ford F-250 made in collaboration with HP using 3D printing waste

Ford and HP are testing the process by making injection-molded fuel-line clips for the Ford F-250 Super Duty. According to Ford, the recycled parts are lighter, less expensive, and more resistant that conventional fuel-line clips. Because the project has panned out successfully so far, Ford is looking to bring its innovation to as many as 10 new vehicles.

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DNV GL releases new 3D printing service specification for the Oil & Gas industry

DNV GL, a global certification and risk management firm, has released a new 3D printing service specification document aimed at supporting additive manufacturing in the oil and gas industry.

Surveyors on a shipbuilding project. Photo via DNV GL

Specification DNVGL-SE-0568 defines DNV’s additive manufacturing qualification scheme and provides details on how to obtain and retain a number of the company’s 3D printing-related certificates. This includes certificates that endorse facilities and digital manufacturing services, and certificates that qualify manufacturers, build processes, 3D printers, parts, and personnel.

The document was developed in accordance with industry standard DNVGL-ST-B203, which DNV previously created for metallic components in the energy sector. As such, the specification is ultimately intended to help the industry in adopting metal 3D printing in a safe and efficient manner.

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Ford and HP reuse spent 3D printed powders and parts

Ford Desktop Metal

Ford teamed up with HP to reuse spent 3D printed powders and parts, thus closing a supply chain loop and turning them into injection-molded vehicle parts. The recycled materials are being used to manufacture injection-molded fuel-line clips installed first on Super Duty F-250 trucks.  The parts have better chemical and moisture resistance than conventional versions, are 7% lighter and cost 10% less. The Ford research team has identified 10 other fuel-line clips on existing vehicles that could benefit from this innovative use of material and are migrating it to future models.

Sustainability is a priority for both companies, which, through joint exploration, led to this unlikely, earth-friendly solution. The resulting injection-molded parts are better for the environment with no compromise in the durability and quality standards Ford and its customers demand.

“Finding new ways to work with sustainable materials, reducing waste and leading the development of the circular economy are passions at Ford,” said Debbie Mielewski, Ford technical fellow, Sustainability.

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