Additive Manufacturing Meets Sustainability: Earth Day at GKN Additive (Forecast 3D)
Happy Earth Day, everyone! As green awareness and environmentally friendly celebrations are in full swing, we wanted to shed some light on how 3D printing is often overlooked as something that can be considered sustainable. And for good reason! We understand that there are concerns about both sustainability and wastefulness in regard to additive manufacturing, and the manufacturing industry as a whole. So, read on as we uncover how certain 3D printing technologies are greener than you think!
Some of the more traditional manufacturing techniques - such as Subtractive Manufacturing - have proven to be more wasteful than we would ideally like them to be. And while these processes generally allow for great versatility where builds are concerned, they can often leave a great deal of the materials that are used to create parts, unusable.
Thankfully, technological advances in 3D Printing machinery, materials, and processes - like Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) by HP - are helping to significantly decrease wastefulness inside of the industry. On top of that, these technologies are still very much in their early stages, which means there is tons of room for improvement moving forward.
To get a bit more in-depth, MJF – like traditional Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) – uses Powder Bed Fusion technology to thermally fuse polymer powder particles in layers. But despite their similarities, there are a few key differences related to speed, dimensional accuracy, cost, and most importantly, powder reusability.
Because of these differences, MJF sets itself apart from not only similar SLS technologies, but also other methods of 3D Printing as well. Thanks to HP’s high-reusability PA 11 and PA 12 materials, much of the powder not used during build processes can now be collected and reused in later builds for different projects. That means less waste to go around, and more efficient manufacturing overall.
Not only is the reusability of materials a huge step in the right direction - because of the MJF powder-bed style building process - there is also no need for added supports to help stabilize parts, like in other 3D printing technologies. And while these supports are not extraordinarily wasteful when compared to other manufacturing technologies, they are still unused materials, nonetheless.
In addition to powder reusability, MJF makes it easier for manufacturers to ensure they aren’t overproducing during their projects. A common issue for traditional manufacturing methods is assuming more inventory is needed in order to meet demand. Unfortunately, when customer and client needs fall below expectations, manufacturers are often left with a surplus of materials that end up becoming waste.
With MJF’s ease of use, printing speed, and ability to make design changes at a moment’s notice, the odds of overproduction are greatly reduced. Manufacturers have a much easier time ensuring they only print what is needed, contributing to greener build processes.
We’re big fans of both the environment and MJF here at FORECAST 3D, and with 24 HP Jet Fusion 3D printers in-house, we’re happy to have the opportunity to help raise awareness for one of the more sustainable 3D printing technologies. With HP’s help, we’ve been able to help minimize the environmental impact of 3D printing and hope to keep the trend going well into the future.
As Additive Manufacturing continues to advance and as newer technologies emerge, it’s important we always try to keep sustainability in mind along the way. On that note - happy printing, everyone, and have a fantastic Earth Day!
- Just hanging around with some of the team on this beautiful Earth Day -