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Sustainability in Engineering: Small tweaks now make a big difference later when 3D printing

Professional Engineering

Stock image. Additive manufacturing can replace conventional manufacturing methods to boost sustainability (Credit: Shutterstock)
Stock image. Additive manufacturing can replace conventional manufacturing methods to boost sustainability (Credit: Shutterstock)

When it comes to product design, even a small change can have a big impact on sustainability. Repeated hundreds, thousands or millions of times across a production run, alterations can significantly reduce the amount of material used, total carbon emissions, and cost.

Additive manufacturing can be a particularly useful tool when trying to boost sustainability, said Claudia Galdini, segment manager at HP, during a Sustainability in Engineering session yesterday (26 September).

Unlike conventional subtractive manufacturing methods, 3D printing can reduce wasted material – but “3D printing them exactly in the design they were thought of for traditional manufacturing technologies might be just the starting point of a much more complex process,” said Galdini.

Design iterations for 3D printing can optimise multiple factors. Galdini gave the example of a final part for an HP large-format 2D latex printer, which was traditionally machined from aluminium. By iterating several times, going from the solid block of metal to multi-jet fusion printed plastic, designers reportedly halved the cost, reduced weight by 93% and carbon footprint by 95%.

Another example, a manufacturing aid used by L’Oreal to hold mascara during production, enabled a 33% cost reduction and 66% time reduction.

Widespread adoption of additive manufacturing can have wider benefits, said Galdini. “The transition from a physical inventory to a completely digital inventory – so the possibility to eliminate emergency stocks plus all of your operations, logistics and transportation – ultimately benefits the environment not only by reducing waste and the material that is used, but also reducing the carbon footprint relating to those shipments.”

Less shipping means less air pollution, while lighter parts can even save energy once they are in use, leading to “trickle-down” savings.

The manufacturing method can also bring the opportunity to work with bio-based materials, Galdini said, such as HP’s PA 11, a 100% bio-based content polyamide made from renewable raw material from vegetable castor oil for reduced environmental impact.

To learn more about how to use additive manufacturing for your company’s sustainability goals, view the webinar on-demand now.


Become a net zero expert at Sustainability in Engineering (26-30 September), part of the Engineering Futures webinar series. Register for FREE now.

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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