In the past three decades, the innovative technology of additive manufacturing has gradually matured. With the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis, this technology has shown new meaning because it enables much-needed products to be produced locally faster. As 3D Printing enters its fourth decade, let us discuss how innovation can help achieve sustainability, rethink what additive can do, and the infinite possibilities it brings. In the past 30 years, 3D printing has changed from a newborn baby in manufacturing to a revolutionary technology that can change various industries and challenge traditional manufacturing processes.
The COVID-19 outbreak has broken the global supply chain, and there is an urgent need for solutions that can help medical staff and patients. 3D printing technology has withstood the test. From distributed manufacturing to more free design methods, to faster iterations and speed improvements, the advantages of this technology have become clearer and more meaningful in the new environment. The acceleration of digitalization will lead to fundamental innovations in the next decade. We want to ask: How does additive manufacturing become more meaningful in its fourth decade?
01 Create extraordinary in different ways Materialise believes that additive manufacturing is of great significance in helping people make better choices. When we enter the fourth decade of 3D printing, there are two fundamental choices before us. The first is to choose to challenge the status quo in different ways. Non-invasive PEEP mask is Materialise’s solution to replace ventilators. With the outbreak of COVID-19, many companies are facing difficulties because they rely on overseas suppliers. People also need to deal with the shortage and quality of basic medical supplies and daily supplies. This is the result of centralized large-scale production. People have formed a consensus that the post-epidemic era will bring about a “new normal”. As we all know, only a very small number of countries can be self-sufficient. We believe that it is necessary to change the global supply chain and make it more customer-centric. In other words: we need to do things in different ways. In the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, additive manufacturing began to become an alternative production technology. It allows products to be produced locally faster and more economically. But its core advantages are not limited to this. Additive manufacturing frees designers from the shackles and limitations of traditional manufacturing, allowing them to focus more on solutions rather than products.
02 How can we make additive manufacturing more sustainable? There is a second equally important option: choose sustainability. This means reducing waste, lowering costs, and producing responsibly. Additive manufacturing is generally regarded as a more sustainable technology: because it causes less waste, it can achieve localized production, bring better working conditions, provide more personalized solutions, and reduce goods. transportation. A survey by Materialise shows that 85% of manufacturing professionals believe that 3D printing is a more sustainable manufacturing method than traditional manufacturing. But can additive manufacturing really make the world move in a more sustainable direction? Or are we just following the trend and whitewashing this technology? BASF and Materialise recently compared the environmental impact of three 3D printing technologies with traditional manufacturing technologies when producing one million pairs of shoe midsoles. The analysis shows that 3D printing is currently not the most sustainable solution for large quantities of the same product. Compared with traditional manufacturing technology, it consumes more resources and has a greater impact on climate change. Just as the COVID-19 crisis has forced various industries to shift gears, we must have a sense of urgency when addressing the climate crisis, rather than step by step. This requires us to completely rethink our R&D approach, rather than adding to the current approach. Because in the incremental innovation process, the space for additive manufacturing is usually very small.
03 The radical innovation atmosphere brings opportunities for additive manufacturing. As companies thoroughly rethink their innovation cycle and aim for major breakthroughs rather than incremental innovation, they begin to refactor designs and create space for bold new ideas. This radical innovation atmosphere has brought opportunities for additive manufacturing. Materialise believes that the choice of sustainability will become critical in the next decade-we hope to help you make this choice. To do this, we need to embrace innovative thinking. Because the question is not “is additive manufacturing a sustainable manufacturing technology?” but: “what can we do to make additive manufacturing more sustainable?”
04 Helping you make sustainable choices The launch of Bluesint PA12 is an example of how we help customers choose sustainability, because it opens a way to eliminate waste in the 3D printing process. Bluesint PA12 can reuse up to 100% of the powder during printing, which greatly improves the resource utilization rate of laser sintering. In 2021, Materialise plans to use Bluesint PA12 on multiple laser sintering printers. Only in the start-up phase of the project, we will reuse more than five tons of powder that would otherwise be scrapped.
05 Sowing the seeds of radical innovation When we think from a higher perspective, we will truly create space for new technologies. This radical innovation atmosphere has brought opportunities for additive manufacturing. The post-epidemic era provides an opportunity for us to create a better, healthier, and more sustainable future.
Link to this article：The new impact of additive manufacturing: helping you make sustainable choices
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