How sustainable is 3D printing as a manufacturing process?

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.

How sustainable is 3D printing as a manufacturing process?

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.

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