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AMGTA Publishes First Research Paper on Sustainability in Additive Manufacturing

Systematic review highlights importance of component end use and need for more research.
#metal #sustainability

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The Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA) has published its first commissioned university research project — a literature-based systematic review of the environmental benefits of metal AM. The paper, “State of Knowledge on the Environmental Impacts of Metal Additive Manufacturing,” was written by Dr. Jeremy Faludi, assistant professor of design engineering from Delft University of Technology, and Corrie Van Sice, a senior research engineer at the Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College.

According to its authors, the report “synthesizes existing academic literature comparing the environmental impacts of metal AM with conventional manufacturing methods, and provides context with impacts of common metals and processing methods found in a materials database.” Its goal “is to summarize current knowledge and identify areas where information is sparse, unclear and much needed.” The full paper is available on the amgta.org website.

Key takeaways from the report include that “AM, generally, has much higher carbon footprints per kg of material processed than CM [conventional manufacturing] when considering the direct manufacturing process itself,” but “impacts depend greatly on part geometry — a solid cube will be much lower impact to produce by machining, while a hollow shell or lattice can be lower impact to produce by AM.”

The report also recognizes the need for additional life cycle assessment (LCA) studies to quantify environmental impacts: “More LCA studies are necessary to definitively compare metal AM to CM; especially direct comparisons of AM to machining, and especially for technologies such as binder jetting and DED. These LCAs should ideally also include more of the product life cycle.”

“No one should expect metal AM to be a more sustainable way to manufacture basic metal parts given the focused energy inherent in laser melting, but AM should present a more sustainable course for manufacturing finished precision components,” says Sherry Handel, executive director of the AMGTA.

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