How 3d Printing Helps To Make Production More Sustainable

We live in an age where people want affordable products quickly. We also see a growing demand for products that are produced sustainably. These two requirements seem to be in conflict. Additive processes, such as 3D printing, offer solutions that save resources and are revolutionizing the industry. Here are some ways 3D printing helps to make production more sustainable.

Only use the materials you need.

Additive manufacturing is, by nature, less wasteful than subtractive methods such as CNC machining. 3D printing starts from a blank surface and adds successive layers of material to create the final part, while CNC machining begins with material and subtracts it until only the finished part remains. This can result in a large amount of waste material. It is true that some waste material will be needed in 3D printing. This includes support material and failed parts. However, both of these issues can be minimized with the right production management.

3D printing has also begun to compete with traditional manufacturing processes such as injection molding. Injection molding produces parts quickly and at a low cost. It is efficient with minimal to no waste. The start-up costs are high. 3D printing can have advantages in terms of sustainability. However, mass production can often lead to excess inventories. Bulk orders can help companies lower unit costs or reduce the risk of shortages in the future. (Lead times on injection-molded parts are long and unpredictable). 3D printing firms can save money and resources by avoiding excess production by using a make-to-order strategy.

The 3D printing method is agile and can be stopped or restarted quickly if there is a need for a design change. This reduces the amount of materials and parts wasted. All design edits can be done digitally. This is unlike other manufacturing processes that require creating a new mold. When working with a local 3D printing company, communication is easier and more efficient than an international one. It is possible to stop production and start it again with a new design. It is usually a quick and easy process that does not cost much, as long as the design and printing process remains the same.

Design parts efficiently to streamline production

3D printing allows you to design and produce whole components. In the past, it was necessary to create parts individually and then assemble them into the complete component. The ability to print geometric shapes that are not replicable by most traditional manufacturing processes is the reason for this. For example, a 3D-printed antenna for the aerospace industry could replace 100 parts previously used to manufacture it. The efficient design of the parts reduces not only the amount of time it takes to make something but also the number of parts required for assembly.

Digital design can help reduce the time and materials needed to produce a part. Hollow parts can be made lighter by using CAD software. Reducing the amount of material wasted is possible by adjusting the excess material required for a part to form properly.

Other industries can also benefit from using digital models by product and industrial designers to create 3D-printed parts and prototypes. Many engineering, architecture, and construction companies already use digital technology such as BIM, digital twins, and 3D files. These files can then be printed to produce scaled terrain, interiors, and buildings. A physical model can be printed before construction to help stakeholders align their expectations and reduce the risk of costly and wasteful reconstructions.

Reduce emissions and energy consumption.

The current manufacturing industry relies heavily upon producing parts in countries with low wages, such as China. It keeps the cost down, but it perpetuates questionable workplace practices. Transporting parts over long distances can also contribute to excessive emissions and energy consumption, and make lead times unpredictable and long. Most metropolitan areas today have at least one company that 3D prints within their area or near it. This means that 3D printable part producers could rely on local businesses to manufacture their parts. The cost of locally sourced parts might not be as low per unit, but they can save on transportation and provide a more reliable product.

The printed parts are also lighter than the traditionally manufactured ones. It can be used to make things lighter, such as automobiles, planes, and machines that run on fuel. 3D printers can use less energy as well than other manufacturing equipment.

Eco-friendly materials are available.

Today, there are thousands of 3D printable material options. Many materials are recyclable, biodegradable, and/or organic. Here are a few eco-friendly materials.

PLA (Polylactic Acid) is a plastic made from corn that can be used to make simple prototypes and maintain its look and shape for many years if stored in the correct environment. PLA is not resistant to extreme temperatures, prolonged exposure to the sun, or humid/wet environments. It’s because PLA is biodegradable that it can’t withstand these conditions. The material is ideal for people who need to make parts but do not want them to last long.

PLA does not degrade easily in “normal” conditions such as landfills or garden composters. It requires high humidity, temperatures over 60°C, and certain microorganisms for it to start breaking down. If you want your PLA parts to decompose properly, a specialized composting facility should be used.

Ocean plastics: Plastic waste is everywhere. It is constantly improved, and new ways are developed to recycle it. Plastic waste can be recycled by turning it into filament for 3D printers. This process involves breaking up large amounts of plastic bottle caps into small pieces, melting them, and then extruding the filaments. The filaments can be used to create new parts using an FFF/FDM Printer.

Ceramics – Materials like clay are increasingly popular for 3D printing because of their aesthetic, functionality, and sustainability. They are sourced directly from the earth and do not typically contain chemical additives. This means that there is no danger of toxic substances leaking out. The parts can be easily decomposed and returned to the environment.

Coral reef restoration is an example of how ceramic 3D printers are being used to support sustainable efforts. Labs 3D print and deploy artificial reefs as starter systems in regions with depleted natural reefs. The porous nature of ceramics and its neutral impact on the existing ecosystem make it an ideal choice for this.

Reusable powders – Even processes that use less environmentally friendly materials, such as metal and nylon powders, are constantly looking for ways to reduce waste. These machines can currently reuse up to 70 percent of the material not fused when printing. The amount of material used for each print is reduced by a significant amount.

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