The Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA), a global trade group based in Hollywood, Florida, USA, has announced the publication of its first commissioned university research project, a literature-based systematic review of the environmental benefits of metal Additive Manufacturing. The paper, titled, ‘State of Knowledge on the Environmental Impacts of Metal Additive Manufacturing’ was written by Dr Jeremy Faludi from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and Corrie Van Sice from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, USA.
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.”
The AMGTA states that its goal “is to summarise current knowledge and identify areas where information is sparse, unclear, and much needed.”
Key takeaways from the report include that, while “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 further recognises 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.”
Sherry Handel, the Executive Director of the AMGTA commented, “We were pleased to work with Dr Faludi and Ms Van Sice on this study. 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.”
“These findings validate the AMGTA’s plans to provide the industry with rigorous, independent, and ongoing research,” Handel continued. “The AMGTA will continue to commission studies and publish research findings in an effort to update the industry and other key stakeholders on what our eco-footprint is now and what we will need to focus on in the future to be more sustainable.”
The full paper is available to access here.