3D Printing Aiding In Sustainable Manufacturing

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3D printing has become increasingly more popular among manufacturers of all kinds and for good reason. There are countless benefits that come along with 3D printing that manufacturers can’t afford to ignore. 3D printing or additive manufacturing can create complex structures not possible with traditional subtractive manufacturing and gives the manufacturers much more flexibility when designing their products. Not only can they create more complex parts, they can use less material at the same time. With traditional subtractive manufacturing, a product must be sculpted out of more material it will take to build the part, gradually shaving or drilling away material to get to the finished part. This opens up the opportunity for manufactures to not only save money on materials, but also has the potential to become a sustainable means of manufacturing.

 

Additive manufacturing can greatly increase a manufacturers efficiency. When using expensive materials like titanium, manufacturers that use 3D printing can save big. Being able to build the component from the bottom up gives manufacturers the unique ability to only use the amount of material that is absolutely necessary. Furthermore, manufacturers can create complex and lightweight components that were not possible with subtractive manufacturing. Having the ability to create complex parts lets manufacturers build a product that would usually consist of multiple parts and turn it into one solid product. Not only can this improve the overall strength of the product, but it requires less time and energy than manufacturing the separate components and then fastening them together. Also, aerospace manufacturers have found that they can produce hollow structures that were not possible with traditional manufacturing techniques. 3D printing uses less material as well as reducing the weight of the overall product. Less weight on an aircraft means less fuel consumed.

 

Only using the necessary amount of material can have a huge impact on the manufacturer that takes advantage of additive manufacturing. Needing less raw materials to make the a component means less materials that need to be purchased and mined from the Earth. This can reduce the energy cost of the miners as well as keeping costs low for the manufacturer. Also, running a 3D printer is much more energy efficient than the machines needed to grind out the components or products from a solid block of metal. For aerospace manufacturing, having the ability to create hollow and structurally sound products uses less material as well. Additive manufacturing can also create complex products all at one time instead of using subtractive manufacturing to build individual components and fastening them together. This process will drastically reduce the energy needed to manufacture a product for the aerospace manufacturer or any other industry that requires lightweight hollow products. The energy savings doesn’t just stay localized on the manufacturers side, but the aircraft will need to use less fuel if aircraft components are lighter. 3D printing can pass energy savings to all parts of their supply chain making an incredibly sustainable manufacturing method.

 

Subtractive manufacturing creates a lot of extra scrap and waste. Manufacturers need to order more raw material and process this excess material to have enough to create the components they need to an end product. This waste goes against a sustainable mindset and will drastically increase the amount of time and energy it will take to manufacture your products. Grinding away metal creates unusable scrap and means money, time and effort is getting thrown in the trash. Traditional manufacturing is limited to what the machine can grind out of a solid block of material. 3D printing is revolutionary because of the fact that the component grows from the bottom up. Building from the bottom up while only using the material you absolutely need is vital when trying to become a more sustainable manufacturer.

 

As well as creating less waste, manufacturers can waste less time by transporting products far distances by having 3D printing hubs set up around their supply chain. Manufacturers can then print components around the world if needed to keep transportation costs down and further reducing emissions from transporting freight. With 3D printers, there is no need to have a large industrial warehouse and shop floor. 3D printers take up a relatively small amount of space so if an operation is spread out they can reach more of the global market with less effort. All the manufacturers need is the design on file, a computer and the 3D printer.

 

With all these advantages 3D printing has to offer, nothing is perfect right out of the box. Manufacturers and those who work with 3D printing technologies realize there could be some fault in the sustainable 3D printing dream. The materials used have a tendency to be less biodegradable than those manufactured with traditional methods. Furthermore, the technology is not new but it is still in its infancy regarding end use manufactured parts. For a majority of the time 3D printing has been around it was mainly used for rapid prototyping and not for the actual product that will be sold. This technology is still slow and is not quite ready for producing parts for the mass market. Yet there has been amazing progress in recent years, and even months, that are bringing the dream of sustainable 3D printing closer to reality.

 

Manufacturers that are trying to become more sustainable need to focus on reducing their waste while at the same time using less energy. 3D printing solves both of these problems. There is still some processing a finished 3D printed component needs before it is ready to be sold, but there many more steps that can be avoided by using additive manufacturing. 3D printing is an incredible tool manufacturers can use to help them become more sustainable. Reducing waste, building more complex components while using less material and being able to spread the manufacturing operation over the entire supply chain all equal up to an incredibly sustainable business. A sustainable journey is not an easy one to embark on, but by taking advantage of the increasingly advanced 3D printing technology that is becoming available manufacturers can take one more step.

 

“What it Takes to Become a Sustainable Manufacturer”: https://mfgtalkradio.com/what-it-takes-to-become-a-sustainable-manufacturer/

 

Sources:

http://www.environmentalleader.com/2015/11/24/is-3d-printing-the-future-of-sustainable-manufacturing/

http://3dprint.com/103344/3d-printed-solar-palms-uae/