Sustainability

Additive manufacturing is inherently a means of production that could improve the sustainability of industries around the world. The very idea of producing by adding only the material needed, instead of removing material in excess, without the need of producing tools could be a game-changer for the global environment. If fewer materials are needed, less are wasted. Producing parts when they are needed, and where they are needed can go a long way reducing overall emissions from industrial production.

The match between AM and sustainability also goes beyond industrial production: the use of 3D printing in construction is emerging as a much more environment-friendly approach, both in terms of workflows and materials used. This has obvious repercussions in the housing industry but also in renewable energy production.

However, the road to making AM a truly sustainable means of production is a long one. Currently, many metal AM processes are high-energy-intensive, many polymers AM processes still waste a lot of – often toxic – materials and construction 3D printing processes are still in their infancy.

As the global economy undergoes a dramatic contraction, an opportunity emerges to further develop AM into a way to produce in a more efficient way: digital, on-demand, additive and distributed manufacturing is now a serious and credible option. It may be the only option to tackle – in one shot – all the social, economic, health and environmental challenges that lie ahead.

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