Sustainable Plastics - March/April 2023 - 12

additive manufacturing
Just how sustainable
is 3D printing?
Three-dimensional, or 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is
a rapidly growing technology that allows for the creation of complex objects
through the layer-by-layer deposition of materials. But do 3D printed products truly
have a smaller carbon footprint than products produced using more traditional
manufacturing technologies? By Efrat Friedland, with research by Karoline Healy
(SLS): using a laser to selectively
fuse powdered material. The
unfused powder supports the
object during printing.
* Binder Jetting: spraying a
binder material onto a powdered
material to bind the particles together
and form a solid object.
* Material Jetting: using printheads
to deposit droplets of liquid
material onto a build platform
to create an object. This process
is known for enabling the creation
of objects that combine
several materials and colours.
* Direct Energy Deposition
(DED): using a high-energy
heat source, such as a laser or
electron beam, to melt and fuse
powdered or wire material onto
a substrate.
* Direct Energy Deposition
PolyJet by Stratasys, J750 and J350, both of which are compatible with
Pantone colours and can print prototypes in more than 500,000 colours, textures,
gradients, transparencies, and material hardness. ┬ęCleveland Clinic
A
s a manufacturing
process, 3D printing
has attracted significant
attention due
to its potential to reduce waste,
use less energy, lower costs,
and potentially enable the creation
of more sustainable products.
In the following article,
Efrat Friedland, the founder of
materialscout and co-founder
of Positive Plastics, explores
the various ways in which 3D
printing is sustainable, how the
technology is viewed by designers,
and how it can become
a game-changing technology in
the world of manufacturing.
Know your printer
Before diving into the sustainable
reasoning behind additive
manufacturing, it is important
to understand the various dif12
March/April
2023
ferent technologies that fall
under the umbrella of 3D printing
and additive manufacturing,
each of which with its own
unique approach to creating
objects. Some of the most common
3D printing technologies
are the following:
* Fused Deposition Modelling
(FDM): one of the most widely
used technologies. It works by
melting a thermoplastic material
and extruding it through a
nozzle to create a 3D object.
* Stereolithography (SLA):
this involves using a laser to
cure a liquid resin into a solid
object. The resin is cured layer
by layer, and the object is built
from the bottom upwards.
* Digital Light Processing
(DLP): similar to SLA, but instead
of using a laser, it uses a
projector to cure the liquid resin.
* Selective Laser Sintering
(DED): using a high-energy
heat source, such as a laser
or electron beam, to melt
and fuse powdered or wire
material onto a substrate.
Each technology has its own
advantages and limitations, so
the choice of technology should
take into account the desired
outcome, the material to be
used, and the specific requirements
of the application.
Why sustainable?
Over the past few decades,
alarm about the impact of human
activities on the environment
has steadily risen. One
major area of concern is that of
manufacturing. Manufacturing
activities are known to consume
significant quantities of natural
resources and the vast amount
of waste they produce. With the
advent of 3D printing, a viable
solution to these environmental
problems has emerged.
While the technology has
been around since the 1980s,
it has only recently become
widely available and affordable.
As for its potential applications,
these range from aerospace engineering
to medical implants
to consumer products.
So, what makes 3D printing
sustainable? The following considerations
are key factors.
Reduced waste
A significant advantage of 3D
printing is that it produces less
waste than traditional manufacturing
processes. Conventional,
substrative processes involve
cutting, drilling, and shaping
raw materials to create the desired
product. This often generates
a significant amount of
waste, as much of the raw material
is simply discarded during
the process. In contrast, 3D
printing, because of its additive
nature, only uses the amount of
material that is needed to create
the product. The printing
process is precise and efficient,
ensuring that very little, if any,
material is wasted. 3D printing
is said to produce between
70%-90% less production scrap
compared to some traditional
manufacturing methods.
Reduced water and
energy usage
Conventional manufacturing
methods often require large
amounts of water for cooling
and cleaning processes, and
they consume huge amounts
of energy to produce, transport,
and assemble products.
In contrast, 3D printing typically
does not require any water
usage, and it uses significantly

Sustainable Plastics - March/April 2023

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Sustainable Plastics - March/April 2023

Sustainable Plastics - March/April 2023 - Cover1
Sustainable Plastics - March/April 2023 - Cover2
Sustainable Plastics - March/April 2023 - 3
Sustainable Plastics - March/April 2023 - 4
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Sustainable Plastics - March/April 2023 - Cover3
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