Additive manufacturing is often considered a more sustainable method for its material efficiency, reduced energy consumption, localized production, and design optimization potential. Though the benefits sound great and make sense, more organizations seek reliable data to prove they’re not greenwashing their products.
To help engineers make more responsible manufacturing decisions that align with sustainability goals, EOS and its Additive Minds applied engineering group developed the EOS Cost & Carbon Calculator for more transparency in the additive design and manufacturing life cycle.
“Responsible manufacturing has always been an undercurrent at EOS, and sustainability falls underneath that. We believe additive is inherently more sustainable or opens up sustainable opportunities,” said Dave Krzeminski, senior Additive Minds consultant at EOS.
(If you attended the 2023 AMUG Conference in Chicago, you might remember Krzeminski demonstrating the first 3D-printed basketball produced by Wilson Sporting Goods.)
EOS took its internal cost-per-part tool — a non-cloud-based Excel sheet — and evolved it into a web-based platform, made it available to external users, and added a carbon calculator component. Users can quickly estimate costs and carbon footprint for either metal or polymer materials or perform a full simulation.
The full simulation calculates numerous parameters, including build height, part volume, number of parts, build time, machine type, and material inputs. The result is a detailed breakdown that shows how costs are distributed among production processes. If a breakdown shows higher costs during powder processing, for example, an engineer has insight into where time should be spent refining production.
EOS collects supply chain information to populate carbon footprint data. Engineers can modify inputs, such as the mode of logistics, to see how changes affect CO2 emissions in the supply chain. They can also play with scenarios to identify sources of CO2 and estimate reductions. For instance, designers can estimate the effects of reducing the part size by half or changing materials to inform more sustainable design decisions.
The calculator also provides carbon pricing to demonstrate how reducing emissions can reduce production costs. This will prove incredibly useful as more countries adopt and enforce carbon tax legislation.
Responsible manufacturing requires transparency
At this point, the prominent question engineers may ask is: Where does all the data come from? The Additive Minds team is transparent about its data collection and seeks user feedback to improve the tool.
“We roll out updates every three to six months. Some data comes from suppliers, other companies, research papers, and studies. Some of the data is collected by our sustainability team running projects, monitoring machines, and quantifying process information,” said Krzeminski.
Two years ago, EOS partnered with its customer You Mawo and Fraunhofer EMI to conduct a systemic life cycle analysis (LCA) of You Mawo’s 3D-printed glasses. From cradle-to-grave, excluding the use phase, the study compared the environmental impact of additively and conventionally manufactured eyewear — from material sourcing to production, packaging, and shipping. The study also included a hotspot analysis to identify significant contributors and potential for improvement, including powder refresh rates, powder feedstock, and energy sources used.
The study concluded that 3D-printed eyewear performs significantly better than conventional eyewear in 18 impact categories, including climate change, human toxicity, ozone depletion, and water depletion. For example, the carbon footprint of a customized, 3D-printed eyewear product is around 58% lower compared to conventionally manufactured eyewear. The analysis also concluded that 3D-printed eyewear compared to conventionally manufactured acetate eyewear creates 80% less waste and can help to avoid lengthy post-processing.
“The 3D-printed eyewear was, in fact, more sustainable from a carbon footprint perspective, and we found that energy sources can be a big contributor,” said Krzeminski. “To that point, we recently rolled out two more sustainable nylon materials. Our Nylon 11 is a climate-neutral substitute for traditional Nylon 11, and we worked with the material supplier to improve the energy sources used to make the material.”
Though the EOS Cost & Carbon Calculator wasn’t designed to replace a thorough LCA, more organizations can now draw similar realizations and refine processes and materials to reduce their carbon footprint.
Responsible minds think alike
“Within EOS, our Additive Minds brand includes our applied engineering consulting and training groups. We don’t just sell you a printer and material and walk away. We interact and support new and existing customers and can create projects,” said Krzeminski. “I kind of think of myself as a travel agent — what do you want to do, and where do you want to go? We can put together educational components to help your team. We can engage with you on a new material project or tune a printer. All that happens under our Additive Minds brand, and in addition to that, we built this tool.”
Additive Minds recently launched another online analysis tool for those exploring additive manufacturing that helps answer the question, “Can I 3D Print This?” Designed for metal and polymer 3D printing, the online tool provides freedom and independent inquiry for those investigating the viability of laser powder bed fusion (LPBF) industrial 3D printing for production.
With the Can I 3D Print This tool, users input information about their current manufacturing methods and the part design file. The tool generates a comprehensive analysis and downloadable report, including cost estimation, predicted production time, a recommended EOS system, and recommended material. The analysis also includes multiple comparisons of cost-per-part (CPP), production timeline, and material usage when manufacturing with 3D printing rather than traditional processes.
With multiple online tools, more manufacturers have opportunities to leverage 3D printing in responsible ways that improve their products and processes while authentically reducing environmental impacts.
“Our job is to make people aware of all the value that additive can bring,” said Krzeminski. “Some people aren’t even aware of carbon taxes and that you will be taxed that way in some regions. So, we’re helping people become better ambassadors and stakeholders within their organizations.”