There is increasing interest in green 3D printing.
In a way “green”, or environmental considerations were always part of 3D printing technology: subtractive making processes are always wasting more material than additive making processes. However, with today’s climate emergency many players in the space are taking bigger steps to ensure their compatibility with the environment.
In recent months I’ve seen companies boast that their unique 3D printing process takes up far less energy than existing processes. That’s something that wasn’t on the menu years ago, as the cost savings from 3D printing overwhelmed other factors. Now that is changing as “green” becomes a thing that is increasingly considered.
Another indicator is an announcement this week by the Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA), a non-profit association of additive manufacturing players seeking ways to promote the environmental benefits of the technology. They revealed that another five industry players have joined their organization.
Here’s a short video about the organization:
Joining AMGTA were Höganas, a major maker of metal powder and owner of Digital Metal; Arkema, a chemical company producing high-performance materials; Flam3D, a Belgian promoter of innovative 3D printing applications; Massivit, an Israeli company producing large-format 3D printers; and the UK NCAM, a regional organization assisting additive companies.
These organizations join a long list of others under AMGTA’s umbrella, including:
- 3D Metalforge
- 3D Systems
- Aachen Center for Additive Manufacturing (ACAM)
- BASF 3D Printing Solutions
- Danish AM Hub
- Desktop Metal
- Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT)
- GE Additive
- Hyperion Metals
- Kurtz Ersa
- National Manufacturing Institute Scotland
- QC Laboratories
- Rusal America
- Siemens Digital Industries Software
- SLM Solutions
- Taiyo Nippon Sanso Corporation
- Tekna Advanced Materials
- The Barnes Global Advisors
- Trane Technologies
That’s quite a few additive companies committed to green directions. However, I’m wondering why there are some notable absences, even though some do indeed offer environmentally friendly products and services. Major companies including Additive Industries, BigRep, BCN3D, Creality, Farsoon, Flashforge, Formlabs, Markforged, Photocentric, Prusa Research, Raise3D, Renishaw, Sindoh, Ultimaker, Velo3D, voxeljet, XJET and XYZprinting have not yet joined this organization. In addition, there are plenty of chemical companies now in the additive space, and they are prime candidates for green products.
My thought is that as the climate emergency intensifies we will see an ever-increasing focus on environmentally sound practices and products from additive companies. This could mean innovations such as:
- Recyclable and biodegradable materials
- Recycling-friendly equipment
- Lower-energy additive manufacturing processes
- Reduced toxins in additive materials
- Shared-equipment networks to increase machine utilization
- Waste recovery programs
These ideas and others to come may seem irrelevant today, but as time passes I believe they will take on great importance and become standards for the AM market.