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What is the connection between additive manufacturing (AM) and Made Smarter? One is helping to tackle environmental crises, the other is a programme to support manufacturing SMEs in adopting digital technologies.

Environmentalist and Made Smarter’s Programme Analyst, Caroline Dolan, reveals how they relate – together with the reasons to make the switch to AM.

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Additive manufacturing doesn’t need as many raw materials per tonne of output. The process itself is more resource-efficient as there are no moulds or tools required, meaning less switchover costs.

Caroline Dolan, Programme Analyst for Made Smarter
Why is digital strategy important?
  • How can new tech enable resource efficiencies

    Before I joined the Made Smarter team, I worked in what was traditionally seen as the environmental sector. Many have asked why I left it behind – my response has always been ‘I haven’t’!

    Environmentalism isn’t just a job responsibility or an auditable certification, it’s a lens through which you see the world. From my perspective, Made Smarter is an environmental project that’s helping a resource-intensive sector boost sustainability by improving efficiency with technology – and it’s hugely exciting to be a part of.

    There are “some amazing things beginning to break” within AM, one of the digital technologies identified in the Made Smarter Review. Here’s four ways it’s super environmentally friendly…

  • 1. Less resources needed

    AM doesn’t need as many raw materials per tonne of output. The process itself is more resource-efficient as there are no moulds or tools required, meaning less switchover costs.

    Plus, it allows for a more lightweight design because it has the power to produce free-form enclosed structures together with intuitive modelling through computer-aided design (CAD). As a basic rule of thumb, you’ll save about four tonnes of CO2 equivalent for every tonne of metal removed in a manufacturing process.

  • 2. Reduced waste

    Usually, the typical mass ratio of raw material to final product falls in the range of 11:1. That’s a lot of scrap metal! But AM lowers this significantly – from 45:1 down to 12:1, for example.

    How? The layered process reduces cut-offs and allows products to be made to order (cutting down on waste and the number of unsold goods). The result is that you’ll save approximately 21 kg CO2 equivalent for each tonne of scrap metal not sent to waste.

  • 3. Fuel savings

    Expect to see substantial fuel saved too. It’s estimated that AM could bring about a 5-27% reduction in global energy use by 2050.

    Instead of making components and shipping them to other locations, you’d manufacture them all at the assembly site – basically swapping transport lorries for CAD files. You also reduce the weight of the parts themselves, leading to less fuel required. If you decrease the annual mileage of an average HGV by just 1,000 miles, for instance, you’ll save 310 kg of CO2 equivalent.

  • 4. Closed loops

    The traditional cradle-to-grave product lifecycle isn’t the sole option. It’s really not the best one either – a circular economy is arguably the only way to reach our global carbon reduction goals. We can instead turn finished products into new ones, so waste becomes a resource.

    AM is ripe with such opportunities. Through ease of repair, upgrading, and by manufacturing with durable printable materials that can be used, melted down, and used again, a product’s lifespan is greatly extended.

    Curious as to how your business can use technologies like AM? Made Smarter will provide you with advice on tools, along with support and funding. Get in touch to boost not just your sustainability, but the world’s.

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