Additive manufacturing, often referred to as ‘3-D printing’, is creating great excitement in advanced manufacturing. Use of the technology means that fully functional objects can be built from plastics and metal, layer-by-layer, in extraordinary detail, without the need for expensive moulding and with minimal post-processing required. Research in this area has attracted funding from governmental agencies seeking to establish a competitive advantage and offset the loss of much traditional heavy manufacturing to lower-wage regions. Such projects target increased automation, greater material and energy efficiencies, and a reduction in waste. To meet these targets, many practical challenges must be overcome—effective use of materials information will be an important success factor.
Regular readers of this blog will know all about gold. Now I’m going to talk about why green is the new gold, focusing on why companies are trying to deliver greener products, and providing some tips for how to do it.
Why greener products make good business sense
Companies often find that trying to lower the environmental impacts of their products also leads to lower manufacturing costs, through the reduction of materials, energy and waste. For designers, thinking about sustainability issues can offer a new and fresh perspective on the products they develop—helping them to spot opportunities for waste and cost reduction. Smiths Detection provide a good example of this. When redesigning an existing product with sustainable design principles in mind they were able to save nearly $160,000 per year in manufacturing costs (download the case study in PDF format here). Continue reading