Environmental Dimensions of Additive Manufacturing: Mapping Application Domains and Their Environmental Implications

20 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2017

See all articles by Karel Kellens

Karel Kellens

KU Leuven

Martin Baumers

Loughborough University

Timothy Gutowski

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Mechanical Engineering

Reid Lifset

Yale University - School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

William Flanagan

General Electric Company

Joost R. Duflou

KU Leuven

Date Written: November 2017

Abstract

Additive manufacturing (AM) proposes a novel paradigm for engineering design and manufacturing, which has profound economic, environmental, and security implications. The design freedom offered by this category of manufacturing processes and its ability to locally print almost each designable object will have important repercussions across society. While AM applications are progressing from rapid prototyping to the production of end‐use products, the environmental dimensions and related impacts of these evolving manufacturing processes have yet to be extensively examined. Only limited quantitative data are available on how AM manufactured products compare to conventionally manufactured ones in terms of energy and material consumption, transportation costs, pollution and waste, health and safety issues, as well as other environmental impacts over their full lifetime. Reported research indicates that the specific energy of current AM systems is 1 to 2 orders of magnitude higher compared to that of conventional manufacturing processes. However, only part of the AM process taxonomy is yet documented in terms of its environmental performance, and most life cycle inventory (LCI) efforts mainly focus on energy consumption. From an environmental perspective, AM manufactured parts can be beneficial for very small batches, or in cases where AM‐based redesigns offer substantial functional advantages during the product use phase (e.g., lightweight part designs and part remanufacturing). Important pending research questions include the LCI of AM feedstock production, supply‐chain consequences, and health and safety issues relating to AM.

Keywords: additive manufacturing, energy efficiency, industrial ecology, resource efficiency, sustainability, 3D printing

Suggested Citation

Kellens, Karel and Baumers, Martin and Gutowski, Timothy and Lifset, Reid and Flanagan, William and Duflou, Joost R., Environmental Dimensions of Additive Manufacturing: Mapping Application Domains and Their Environmental Implications (November 2017). Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol. 21, Issue S1, pp. S49-S68, 2017, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3071344 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jiec.12629

Karel Kellens (Contact Author)

KU Leuven ( email )

Oude Markt 13
Leuven, Vlaams-Brabant 3000
Belgium

Martin Baumers

Loughborough University

Ashby Road
Nottingham NG1 4BU
Great Britain

Timothy Gutowski

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Mechanical Engineering ( email )

United States

Reid Lifset

Yale University - School of Forestry and Environmental Studies ( email )

New Haven, CT 06511
United States

William Flanagan

General Electric Company

United States

Joost R. Duflou

KU Leuven ( email )

Oude Markt 13
Leuven, Vlaams-Brabant 3000
Belgium

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