3D printing has a lot of potential impacts and uses in business. Prototyping to producing intermediates and making end use 3D printed parts are just some of the application areas where 3D printing is seeing large-scale implementations at the moment. One of the touted benefits of 3D printing is its ability to let companies produce in a more environmentally friendly way. How can 3D printing help companies go green?
Using Less Material
Compared to traditional manufacturing technologies such as CNC, 3D printing often uses less material to make the final part. Rather than starting with a one-kilo block of material and then cutting most of it away, 3D printing builds up an object layer by layer. This means that less material is used in the final part and less material is wasted. Just how much material is saved by using 3D printing depends a lot on the geometry of the part and what it needs to do. Individual 3D printing technologies also would work very differently, which would influence how much material can be saved. In some cases metal 3D printing instead of casting has saved manufacturers 20% or more in raw material. In using FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling, FFF) some industrial parts can be made that overall use 40% less material or more. There are knock on effects of this as well; using less material means buying less and storing less which also saves on shipping and storage costs. Aerospace companies often look at buy to fly ratios to determine cost advantages of parts. A buy to fly ratio is how much material that needs to be purchased versus how much material is used on the final part in the aircraft. 3D printing often comes out as a very advantageous technology when compared to others in this way because so much of the used material ends up in the final part. This is just one of the reasons why the aircraft industry is so interested in the technology.