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Study Compares Resource Consumption of Additive and Conventional Manufacturing

Wednesday, November 27, 2019
 
In a study called Ecological and Economic Assessment of Resource Expenditure: Additive Manufacturing Processes in Industrial Production, the VDI Centre for Resource Efficiency (VDI ZRE) in Berlin, Germany, used a damper fork for a passenger car to compare the resource consumption of an additive manufacturing process with a conventional manufacturing process, examining a medium-sized series production. Conventionally, this consists of a dropforged aluminum-casting alloy and weighs 1.3 kg. Production includes the casting production steps of drop forging, deburring, heat treatment and milling. For the additive manufacturing process, laser beam melting (LBM) was chosen. For this process, two different aluminum powders were melted locally and applied layer by layer on a base plate. The result? 3D printing consumed more energy, more raw materials, more water and more space and produced more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional production. The report goes on to say that expected technical improvements to the LBM plant in the future will greatly reduce the environmental impact and costs and that the gap between conventional and additive manufacturing will narrow in the medium term in terms of economic efficiency and resource efficiency.

The study shows that it is necessary to evaluate carefully additive and conventional manufacturing processes. In the case of the damper fork, the mass reduction achieved by additive manufacturing is negligible and has no effect on the fuel consumption of the car. However, the situation is different in aerospace, medical technology and bionic product concepts. In these cases, lighter components can achieve greater savings during the utilization phase.

Looking toward the future, the report predicts that 3D metal printed parts will “probably neither be produced exclusively by conventional means nor exclusively by additive processes. Instead, 3D printing processes will complement the conventional methods.” The study will soon be available on the VDI ZRE website.

 

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