What makes additive manufacturing uniquely positioned to bring sustainability to industrial production.
One issue that will truly advance advanced manufacturing – especially additive manufacturing (AM) – is sustainability. AM processes are uniquely poised among manufacturing techniques for innovative steps forward in “greener” opportunities. Importantly, there are ways to do so without greenwashing.
The most-touted benefits of 3D printing for sustainability are relatively simple: additive—in contrast to subtractive—manufacturing adds material rather than removing. With improvements in terms of near-net capabilities to reduce the post-processing requirements necessary to reach final geometries, AM is indeed uniquely poised on many fronts to offer an environmentally superior means of volume production.
Low-hanging fruit like reducing material waste is an obvious win in the argument for implementing AM. However, this is by no means universally understood, accepted or even complete in the scope of end-to-end environmental impact.
AM engineers are increasingly asking a more pointed question when it comes to sustainability: How exactly can polymer, metal and other AM processes move the needle?
Sustainability in AM
Sherri Monroe, Executive Director, Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA), offers a pragmatic look into why such questions are important to the manufacturing industry.
“Sustainability will increasingly be a critical factor in manufacturing,” she says. “The reality is, it’s not a separate issue from profitability. Sustainability and profitability track together. If you’re running a profitable business, you’re probably running a sustainable business. More efficient energy usage, less downtime and more efficiency in production lead to better sustainability. Sometimes sustainability is simply an unintended consequence of running a profitable business. Those metrics will become increasingly important as reporting and customer demands require it.”
In other words: “Sustainability is not just good for business; sustainability is good business.”
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