AM is a sustainable technology

28 November 2017

As an emerging manufacturing process, Additive Manufacturing (AM) not only has the potential to change the landscape for product development, manufacturing and logistics, it can also improve sustainability across a variety of industries.

Producing a truck gear using subtractive machining requires 17 steps, whereas the AM requires a mere 6 – with each less step bringing a saving in energy consumption.

Another major advantage is that the actual production can be undertaken locally; all you need to transport is powder. The printer can be placed at the customer site or very close by. This means that the number of transportations are reduced even more. Furthermore, AM cuts down on material waste.

Even though the chips are collected and sent for recycling, the carbon footprint is substantially higher, due to heavier transportation and a much larger amount of material to recycle. This has a significant energy impact. At Sandvik, the steel is melted in the efficient scrap-based electric Sandvik steel mill, which requires approximately 500 kWh per ton. This is significant when compared to the resource efficiency of powder technologies.

AM is presently used mostly for producing components with complex designs and lightweight designs.