New study reveals potential of Additive Manufacturing to reduce carbon footprint in production

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AMPOWER Study highlights the potential of Additive Manufacturing to reduce carbon footprint
Above: CO2 emission of stainless-steel component/Source: AMPOWER

AMPOWER, a strategy consultancy, has released a new study on the sustainability potential of metal Additive Manufacturing to reduce carbon footprint. According to an AMPOWER study, material savings from additive manufacturing can contribute significantly to lowering greenhouse gas emissions. This effect is amplified when the use phase of the product lifecycle is considered.

Over the last five years, rising atmospheric CO2 levels and resulting weather phenomena have finally changed the general mindset of people, politics, and industry toward fossil fuel emissions. The majority is now striving for lower carbon emissions and a more sustainable way of life.

In this context, additive manufacturing has been promoted as a single production technology that can reduce emissions and, as a result, the carbon footprint of part production and the entire product life cycle. However, detailed calculations that consider the entire production route and objective comparisons to traditional manufacturing have been scarce.

Additive Manufacturing to Reduce Carbon Footprint

In 2021, AMPOWER began a comprehensive study with approximately 20 industrial partners to investigate the carbon footprint of various metal Additive Manufacturing technologies. AMPOWER now presents the findings in a new study that compares traditional metal processing technologies like machining and casting to cutting-edge metal AM technologies like Powder Bed Fusion and Binder Jetting.

One of the most important findings is that there is no universal answer for which manufacturing technology has the lowest carbon footprint.

“The overall footprint is heavily influenced by the alloy group as well as the part geometry. Complex geometries with high “buy-to-fly ratio” are favorable for netshape technologies such as AM and casting, while simple parts might be most sustainable if milled.”

– Dr. Eric Wycisk, lead author of the study at AMPOWER

When compared to milling, AM technology Powder Bed Fusion with lasers and electron beam can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of titanium alloys. The ability to manufacture weight optimised designs reduces material input and thus embodied energy, compensating for higher energy consumption in the part manufacturing process. Aluminum alloys and stainless steels have a lower embodied energy.

AMPOWER created a Sustainability Calculator for the CO2 footprint as part of this study. This tool allows for the evaluation of various alloy and technology combinations, as well as the customisation of process routes.

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