AMGTA Study Showcases Eco-Friendly Impact of 3D Printing in Fashion Industry


Global trade group Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA) has issued a study underlining the environmental advantages of additive manufacturing in the fashion industry.

The study, named ‘Comparative Analysis: 3D Material Jetting vs Traditional Methods for Designer Luxury Goods’, performed over a year, evaluated the environmental impact from cradle-to-gate of a 3D logo affixed to a luxury athletic shoe’s heel.

The research determined that the 3D printed component, fabricated through material jetting, had a significantly lower environmental impact than the same part produced using conventional methods.

Surprisingly, the 3D printed component facilitated a 24.8% decrease in CO2e emissions and a 48% decrease in stock material compared to its counterpart manufactured in the traditional manner.

Commissioned by the AMGTA, the study was conducted by UK-based additive manufacturing consultancy Reeves Insight in collaboration with 3D printer manufacturer Stratasys, Italian luxury fashion firm Pattern Group and its subsidiary, Dyloan Bond Factory.

“We are pleased to issue the third body of research in a series of independently commissioned papers designed to reveal the environmental benefits of additive manufacturing adoption. We are committed to advancing the research and publication required to better understand the sustainable value of AM technologies as part of the manufacturing cycle for broad business cases,” commented Sherri Monroe, the AMGTA’s Executive Director.

“This collaborative study with Stratasys and Pattern Group, assessing the impact of a print-to-textile process, is our first research undertaking involving polymer. It delivers important data that supports the value of AM to impact one of the most historically polluting industries in the world.”

Stratasys CEO Dr. Yoav Zeif added, “This study showcases how the adoption of our advanced AM offering empowers customers to deliver manufacturing solutions that improve their impact on the environment and at the same time deliver competitive advantage through innovation in production for design.”

The 3D logo component assessed during the AMGTA study. Image via AMGTA.

How was the study conducted?

Commissioned in 2022, the study compared the production of a 3D shoe accessory using both traditional and additive manufacturing techniques.

The traditional multiple-step process included 2D inkjet printing and thermal welding of injection molded parts with sheet polyurethane materials. On the other hand, the additive manufacturing process required significantly fewer steps, and included material jetting using photocurable liquid resins.

The research studied and contrasted both methods, with a production count of 16,000 logo parts for 8,000 pairs of footwear. The parts made through addition were created using the Stratasys Polyjet J850 TechStyle 3D printer.

The post-production analysis took into account the environmental consequences of the manufacturing methods and materials utilized. The key analysis metrics were emissions to air, water, and land. In the report, air emissions are shown as Global Warming Potential (GWP) in units of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).

It’s important to note that this research did not provide a full Life-Cycle Analysis (LCA) of the final footwear. Instead , an in-depth Life-Cycle-Inventory (LCI) for the 3D logo part manufacturing stage, leading to final footwear production, was provided.

All inputs to and outputs from the manufacturing stage were assessed in this research. The inputs evaluated were energy and raw materials. The outputs include emissions to air, water, and soil; generation of solid waste; final products; and co-products.

Key findings of the study

Ultimately, 3D printing using material jetting was found to produce 24.8% less CO2e emissions than the traditional manufacturing process.

Across the 16,000 logo components, 3D printing delivered one metric tonne less CO2e into the atmosphere. The report also noted that improving the efficiency and productivity of the 3D printer could reduce these CO2e emissions even further.

3D printing is discovered to utilize 49.3% less material by weight compared to the conventional manufacturing supply chain, equating to one-third less of a metric ton of stock material. Comparatively, the 3D printed accessory boasts a 50.5% reduction in material use compared to its conventional equivalent, culminating in a lighter final product.

The research also pointed out that traditional manufacturing of the 16,000 logo components demanded over 300,000 liters of water. This is attributed to the employment of a paper-backed PU sheet being the main binding agent. Conversely, 3D printing consumes no water.

On the matter of energy use, conventional injection molding and thermal bonding manufacturing methods consumed 7,122 kWh of electrical energy. In contrast, material jetting 3D printing only required 2,548 kWh, which is 64% less electricity than conventional manufacturing methods.

Despite this, the research emphasized that both conventional and additive manufacturing processes produced around 150 kg of non-recyclable waste. Traditional manufacturing also generated 131 kg of recyclable waste, while 3D printing methods did not yield any recyclable waste streams.

Moreover, the traditional manufacturing supply chain was found to have a slightly lower environmental impact than the 3D printing supply chain, with regard to transport-related emissions. This disparity was driven by the longer distances associated with transporting specialty resins, with traditional manufacturing using local supply chain partners.

Calculating the sustainability of additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is certainly seeing a growing focus on sustainability. Earlier this year, AMGTA conducted an LCA comparing traditional casting to binder jetting for an industrial part.

This LCA was conducted by the Yale School of the Environment in collaboration with industrial 3D printer manufacturer Desktop Metal and US-based “climate innovator” Trane Technologies. Ultimately, binder jet 3D printing showed a 38% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. This was driven by reduced energy demand during production.

Elsewhere, 3D Printing Industry attended AM Summit 2023, Scandinavia’s largest additive manufacturing conference. Here, there was a significant focus on sustainability and 3D printing.

Original source


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