Additive manufacturing and 3D printing have taken the world by storm. Statistics show the market has grown exponentially in a very short span. Experts believe the global additive manufacturing and 3D printing market will be worth approximately $37.2 billion by 2026. However, that’s not all because the sector continues registering exceptional growth. It’s projected to grow at a CAGR of 21.1 percent, reaching a market value of roughly $70 billion by 2030.
Additive manufacturing continues to spread like wildfire due to several reasons. For starters, additive manufacturing provides product designers and engineers freedom, allowing them to design, innovate, and modify products quickly without wasting time or money. Additive manufacturing’s rapid nature also helps compressed production lines.
However, most importantly, additive manufacturing has become so prevalent because it’s sustainable. While additive manufacturing relies on electricity, it requires fewer units to produce parts than traditional manufacturing. In addition, additive manufacturing also creates less waste because only the necessary materials are used to create products.
When you think about traditional manufacturing, you likely imagine large production lines churning out products noisily. On the flip side, additive manufacturing doesn’t create the noise pollution that traditional manufacturing does.
However, while additive manufacturing is more sustainable than traditional manufacturing, it isn’t environmentally friendly. As a result, many experts have tried to devise ways to make additive manufacturing more sustainable.
Here are some steps to sustainable additive manufacturing:
Additive manufacturers must perform full lifecycle assessments to make additive manufacturing more transparent. These assessments can help provide a detailed understanding of additive manufacturing’s environmental impact.
Manufacturers should follow standardized reporting methodologies to provide a detailed overview of how additive manufacturing materials, machinery, and processes contribute to environmental decay.
They should also consider adding information about recycling and zero-waste options to learn about the environmental effects of different additive manufacturing materials and equipment.
Additive manufacturers should also consider developing a suitable lifecycle analysis database because lifecycle assessments are costly and time-consuming. Developing these databases will promote transparency and help additive manufacturers compare and verify energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions during a product’s life span. It would also help them and other stakeholders – investors, consumers, and suppliers – identify how additive manufacturing adds value to the manufacturing process.
Conducting lifecycle assessments is important. It will unearth a treasure trove of information about additive manufacturing. Manufacturers could use this data to forecast and predict environmental impact before printing new products or items. They could also pass this information to customers who would be more inclined to switch to additive manufacturing products if it proves sustainable in the long run. In addition, predicting environmental impact before printing will also help manufacturers determine flaws with additive manufacturing processes and equipment, allowing them to remedy these issues for lower carbon emissions and environmental effects in the future.
It’s no secret that additive manufacturing was designed to aid production. The goal was to push the boundaries of existing possibilities in manufacturing because doing so would broaden the horizon. While additive manufacturing has successfully achieved this, it has also proven more environmentally sustainable than traditional manufacturing. However, that doesn’t mean improvements cannot occur.
Manufacturers must take action to make additive manufacturing even more sustainable. For instance, most additive manufacturing still relies on electricity. Manufacturers must consider using renewable energy or alternative power sources for additive manufacturing to make it more sustainable. Likewise, additive manufacturers must also consider streamlining processes and operations to limit environmental impact. Plotting a clear action plan can help make additive manufacturing more sustainable in the long run.