3D PRINTING – Eliminating Wastes and Reducing Carbon Footprint by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

The economic advantages of metal additive manufacturing as an alternative to traditional methods are clear, but the reduced environmental impact may be even more important to the future of industry.

Shipping: An Enormous Carbon Footprint

The flow of raw materials into a manufacturing facility and finished goods out of it require enormous energy inputs allocated to shipping. Given that traditional manufacturing has been heavily reliant on fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution, this process exacts a major toll on the environment. Together, the transportation sector accounts for over 30 percent of all U.S. emissions. Industrial transportation related to shipping undoubtedly comprises a major segment of this total.Complex, disjointed supply chains result in an end-use product that requires inputs to be shipped from hundreds of suppliers. Further, the completed product goes through multiple layers of distribution before it arrives in its buyer’s hands. 3D printing can’t fix all these problems, but it does have the potential to dramatically cut the number of links in the chain by allowing local, on-demand manufacturing of a huge variety of components. Without a doubt, 3D printing will eliminate millions of component shipping journeys in the coming decade.

Traditional Processes Waste Vital Resources

The largest segment of the metal parts fabrication industry is “subtractive” processes like CNC milling, in which material is cut away from a block to produce a final part.This brings us back to the key word, “subtractive.” The problem with this type of manufacturing is that any of the original block of metal that is cut away is waste. That wasted material represents additional resources that must be extracted from the Earth via potentially harmful mining practices.

Even worse, the final outcome for the scrap material itself involves one of two things:

  1. Additional shipping and processing to take advantage of whatever economic value the cast-off still has
  2. A trip to the local landfill, where industrial overcrowding is already a significant issue

Metal 3D printing, when economically viable, provides a nearly perfect solution to this problem. Because it’s an additive process, whereby material is layered onto itself in an exact pattern, there is virtually no waste associated. Only the metal that actually comprises the final component is used. The unused material can be recycled.This could mean the difference between 95% waste with CNC machining and < 1% waste using metal AM.

Toxic Byproducts are Common in Metal Manufacturing

Certain types of metal manufacturing, most notably CNC machining and metal injection molding, require the use of toxic substances as part of their process. The oils and lubricants needed to ensure CNC machines run properly are often dangerous to the environment. The finishing process for these parts can also make use of fluids that can be damaging if handled incorrectly. These must be handled carefully and disposed of properly.Needless to say, “properly” isn’t a standard to which all manufacturers worldwide are held. Some percentage of the harmful agents used in both CNC machining and metal injection molding will make it into the air, water, or soil that supports the community around a plant. It’s hard to quantify this, but the environmental impact is real.Standards for proper disposal of hazardous chemicals associated with conventional metal manufacturing can vary dramatically by world region.

Metal AM eliminates this concern entirely. The process simply doesn’t generate any toxic byproducts, which guarantees that air and water quality won’t be directly harmed.Conventionally made components can leave a much bigger carbon footprint than 3D printed parts.A less obvious environmental cost of traditional manufacturing lies in the efficiency of end-use products. Recent successes in metal 3D printing have changed what’s possible for fuel efficiency in a variety of places. The technology has enabled huge design improvements that shave off weight without compromising strength.

Lessening the Carbon Footprint Through AM-Enabled Design

3D printing allows for the manufacture of parts with complex internal geometries, often in ways that are impossible for conventional techniques to match. The upshot is that design changes that combine multiple parts into a single component can often be completed without sacrificing functionality–or feasibility. This accomplishes the goal of lowering cost and lead times by simplifying the manufacturing process, but it also comes with significant environmental advantages.

Additive Manufacturing Optimizes Designs & Efficiency

As the world marches toward an increasingly tenuous climate future, the costs of a suboptimal part made through traditional manufacturing must be considered right alongside the more tangible impacts described above. There are countless heavy or less-than-aerodynamic components in applications across every sector that could be improved significantly with the design freedom afforded by metal AM. In aggregate, the emissions reductions that are now feasible through projects like GE’s Advanced Turboprop engine would represent major improvement for humanity’s overall carbon footprint. Metal 3D printing doesn’t yet offer all the answers, but in a growing percentage of manufacturing situations, it’s a step in the right direction for our planet.

References:

3DEO. (n.d.). Environmental Impact of Additive Manufacturing. Retrieved from https://news.3deo.co/environmental-impact-of-additive-manufacturing

Questions:

  1. How is 3D printing reducing the carbon footprint?
  2. How is 3D printing reducing wastage?
  3. How is 3D printing optimizing designs and increasing efficiency?

How 3D Printing Impacts Logistics and Supply Chains- by Abhilasha Satpathy, DCMME Center Graduate Student Assistant

In recent years, 3D printing has brought manufacturing capabilities to several remote, hard-to-access areas across the globe. DHL, for instance, tells us that the U.S. Navy 3D prints drones on-demand on board its oceangoing vessels. NASA, meanwhile, is working to develop a 3D printer for the International Space Station. Shell is also experimenting with this remote manufacturing method on offshore oil platforms.

Pay-for-use or nonprofit fabrication shops are becoming more popular as well, offering public access to 3D printing tools, and some websites have begun aggregating 3D printing designs, allowing customers to compare and select printing services that work for their specific needs.These initiatives are disrupting the traditional manufacturing supply chain in several ways. In researching warehouse stocking practices in Amsterdam, DiManEx found that approximately 80% of stored products were sold only twice yearly, which led to write-offs, scrapping, and wasted materials. With on-demand, on-site printing, companies can move away from having to store excess spare parts and can instead deliver parts quickly and efficiently, whenever they’re required. Mercedes-Benz Trucks, for instance, allows customers to 3D print more than 30 cargo truck spare parts.

As 3D printing becomes more and more prevalent, expect to see increased supplier consolidation as well. For instance, logistics providers may offer added value by being the ones to process, print, and deliver 3D parts quickly and cheaply. In this way, the typical months-long process of designing, sourcing, and producing component parts can be cut down drastically. In the future, 3D printing warehouses may also take on the responsibility of material sourcing in addition to 3D end-to-end design, production, and delivery. As an example, consider Amazon’s bet on this technology: The company has patented a truck fitted with 3D printers that would allow for sophisticated mobile manufacturing capabilities. Increased responsiveness is also likely, as 3D printers allow for smaller batch sizes, which can positively impact quality control and open the door for expedited product development.

Finally, this kind of technological innovation is likely to bring about advanced customization options, as users will be able to select various aspects of the design, material, shape, size, packaging, and so on. And in gaining the power to make and deliver their own 3D-printed products, customers will no longer be limited to what suppliers themselves design and produce.

 

References:

3D Printing Finds Its Place in the Supply Chain. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://news.thomasnet.com/featured/3d-printing-finds-its-place-in-the-supply-chain/

 

Questions:

  1. How is 3D printing bringing about advanced customization options into supply chains ?
  2. How is 3D printing reducing wastage in supply chains ?
  3. How is 3D printing improving the efficiencies of supply chains ?

 

 

 

3D Printing Our Way to Space

The article “The Possibilities of Weight Reduction with Additive Manufacturing” (http://3dprinting.com/metal/possibilities-weight-reduction-additive-manufacturing/) reviews a partnership that Atos, a Spanish digital solutions company, and Materialise, a 3D printing services company in Belgium, have formed. These two companies how to partner up to improve current technologies within the aerospace industry. The first initiative they took was to improve a mounting piece that is generally used to attach heavy and large structures to satellites. They were able to reduce the weight by utilizing lattice structures to form a strong, yet hollow per component which weighed 70% less! Amazingly enough, the material they 3D printed was titanium, which is known as the “best performing metal for AM technology”.

The 5Ps of Additive Manufacturing

In the recent article “Lockheed Martin Looks to Catch Up in 3D Printing”(http://advancedmanufacturing.org/lockheed-5ps-additive-manufactuirng/), an overview is provided of a seminar in which Robert Ghobrial, the additive manufacturing lead, spoke. Robert Ghobrial was clear that while Lockheed Martin is still exploring 3D manufacturing and the most effective ways to use the new technology, they were making great headway, and had already seen some recent successes. Ghobrial also provided what he called “The 5Ps of Additive Manufacturing”, which outline how additive manufacturing can help aerospace, defense, and other businesses. The 5Ps are:

  1. Proposal: “3D printing can make giveaways at trade shows; architectural and space models; and aid in customer/client communication.”
  2. Prototype: “3D printed prototypes help with design validation and proof of concept development.”
  3. Procurement: “Can we make something vs. buying it?”
  4. Production Support: “3D printing can support production by helping make assembly fixtures, manufacturing tooling, production templates, inspection fixtures and machine safeguards.”
  5. Production: “AM can produce end-use parts; make parts on demand for spares, warranty and repairs support; and even manage obsolescence.”

These 5Ps provide all of a unique perspective into some of the ways many businesses may be able to employ 3D printing. How effective will additive manufacturing be in the long run? Only time will tell.

Is 3D Printing Really the Future?

All over the media we are reading about how 3D printing is going to change the manufacturing industry completely. Is this fact a guarantee? The article “The Limits of 3D Printing” (https://hbr.org/2015/06/the-limits-of-3d-printing) give a converse view to this new technology. Per the article, “…the economics of 3D printing now and for the foreseeable future make it an unfeasible way to produce the vast majority of parts manufactured today”. Because of this assumption, the author proposes that we “…look to new areas where it can exploit its unique capabilities to complement traditional manufacturing processes”. Building off of this statement, the article also addresses the theory that with 3D printing, global supply chains will become a thing of the past by stating that “this vision does not stack up to economic reality”. One of the widely accepted benefits of 3D printing is that product customization is much easier. Despite this fact, the article states that “… 99% of all manufactured parts are standard and do not require customization”. Due to this fact, “… when customization isn’t important, 3D printing is not competitive”. How much of these ideas are fact? Is 3D printing the future, or just a complement we will utilize for customization? For now, only time will tell.

Is 3D Printing the Future?

All over the media we are reading about how 3D printing is going to change the manufacturing industry completely. Is this fact a guarantee? The article “The Limits of 3D Printing” (https://hbr.org/2015/06/the-limits-of-3d-printing) give a converse view to this new technology. Per the article, “…the economics of 3D printing now and for the foreseeable future make it an unfeasible way to produce the vast majority of parts manufactured today”. Because of this assumption, the author proposes that we “…look to new areas where it can exploit its unique capabilities to complement traditional manufacturing processes”. Building off of this statement, the article also addresses the theory that with 3D printing, global supply chains will become a thing of the past by stating that “this vision does not stack up to economic reality”. One of the widely accepted benefits of 3D printing is that product customization is much easier. Despite this fact, the article states that “… 99% of all manufactured parts are standard and do not require customization”. Due to this fact, “… when customization isn’t important, 3D printing is not competitive”. How much of these ideas are fact? Is 3D printing the future, or just a complement we will utilize for customization? For now, only time will tell.

3D Printing for the Non-Industrial Consumer?

The article “3D printing and the Future of Manufacturing” (http://www.industryweek.com/emerging-technologies/3d-printing-and-future-manufacturing-infographic) is an infographic that breaches the norm of 3D printing discussions. Instead of talking about how 3D printing could influence the industrial manufacturing industry, this article focuses another potential user; the non-industrial consumer. As stated in the article “Today, almost anyone can become a manufacturer or contribute to the manufacturing process.” “If applied correctly, that point might be the biggest business opportunity presented by the technology to date.” The article displays ten major characteristics of 3D printing, three of which will be discussed today.

  1. The range of materials is exploding: 3D printing is no longer limited to plastics or the recently added metals, but can now be incorporated with ceramics, concrete, food, and other biological substances, among others. This opens the 3D printing market to virtually every business today.
  2. New major players: As stated above, almost anyone can become a manufacturer or contribute to the manufacturing process. The possibilities are endless.
  3. The consumer possibilities are also endless: 3D printing enables customization at no additional costs, giving a sustainable solution to the “thirst” of personalization.

These three main points, along with many other aspects and benefits of 3D printing, create the perfect storm for 3D printing to flourish. As the technology grows and improves, the impact of 3D printing will only continue to grow.