Is 3D printing the key to sustainable manufacturing?

A study from the U.S. Department of Energy revealed that additive manufacturing can reduce costs associated with materials by up to 90%.

John Hart, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT discusses some key benefits of additive manufacturing.

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The traditional method of “subtractive manufacturing” essentially carves a part out of a solid block of material, leaving the part’s negative space as wasted material. With 3-D printing, a part is formed from scratch, by depositing one layer of material on top of another, based on a digital model. “In additive processes, in many cases there is little waste, and material can be partially recycled for future uses,” Hart said in an interview.


Hart said that adoption of 3-D printing will depend on the same cost-benefit analysis businesses always use — but that the future for the technology is bright. While 3-D printing’s economic potential is evolving, its environmental gains are just beginning to surface. From energy and waste savings to recyclability, once additive manufacturing becomes an industry standard, we will begin to visualize its comprehensive environmental benefits.