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Achieving Sustainability With Additive Manufacturing

If you had to put two experts in a room about how additive manufacturing is opening new ways to make parts and products efficiently and more sustainably (less waste), ASME did it. They invited two of the top thinkers on the topic for the AM Tech Forum Executive Panel: AM’s Role In Sustainability with Sherry Handel, Executive Director at the Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA), served as moderator and interviewed Marie Langer, CEO of EOS.

As most readers know, ASME creates and organizes many high-level thought leadership events throughout the year, and this one is no exception. The AM Tech Forum resources page offers all the upcoming webinars, workshops, and more. The ASME Events page is packed, too.

During an event last fall by Women in 3D Printing (a supporter of the AM Tech Forum), several experts weighed in on the potential for change, including today’s moderator Sherry Handel. A similar theme was present in the AM Tech Forum discussion: Business leaders and executive buy-in is essential to ensure success and a commitment to AM sustainability.

EOS is well-known as one of the early pioneers in Additive Manufacturing, started in 1989 in Germany by Dr. Hans Langer. The company dominated the Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D printer market, then built on and refined the SLS technology with its launch of Direct Metal Laser Sintering in the mid-90s.

Some of the highlights from the panel discussion and question-answer session afterward:

Sustainability is realized in the industry through “less material consumption...less overproduction, and less waste overall,” Ms. Langer said. She stated there are three levels of sustainability:

  • Technology level: resource efficiency, lightweight components, extended product lifespan, inventory waste reduction
  • Humanity level: specialized products in the medical field, for example.
  • Corporate level: reducing material usage, assembly times. A great example is how an Airbus aircraft door was improved recently.

With the EU aiming at a carbon emission reduction of at least 55 percent by 2030, EOS is working diligently toward climate change solutions by hiring a sustainability manager as well as conducting comprehensive material and life cycle analysis. In addition, they found their employees were very enthusiastic about improving their environmental commitment and through informal “Ideation sessions” they learned what could work best for EOS, noting that the “same sustainability standard doesn’t work for all companies, the goal should just be moving in the right direction. There is no destination.” This internal work then influenced and helped the company to guide customers as they seek to do similar efforts.

Ms. Langer said that EOS is asking hard questions to determine if they can produce their own 3D printing machines sustainably and sustainably disposed of at the product end of life.

“We are asking: What can we produce with our technology? What kind of waste management do we need to look at? We’re examining options to allow for refurbishing once something breaks. Focus on printing biodegradable parts. Create a more circular economy. Biodegradable and recyclable materials are being used more. Material is being reused more, but a true full circle is still a ways away. My advice to companies exploring sustainable operations is to talk to experts. Collect data. Make sure the company actually wants to do it.”

Learn more about Sustainable Additive Manufacturing on the ASME site.