Exploring the Environmental Advantages of 3D Printing in Fashion: Insights from the AMGTA Study


Global trade group Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA) has released a study showcasing the ecological advantages of additive manufacturing in the realm of fashion.

The study, named ‘Comparative Analysis: 3D Material Jetting vs Traditional Methods for Designer Luxury Goods’, spent a year investigating the environmental ramifications from conception to creation of a 3D emblem fixed to the heel of a high-end sports shoe.

The study concluded that the 3D printed element, created via material jetting, had a significantly lesser impact on the environment compared to the part constructed through standard processes.

In actual terms, the 3D printed part allowed for a 24.8% decrease in CO2e emissions, along with a 48% reduction in unused material, in contrast to its traditionally fabricated equivalent.

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

“We are delighted to publish the third body of research in a series of independently commissioned papers aimed at highlighting the environmental benefits of embracing additive manufacturing technologies. Our commitment is to push forward the research and documentation needed to better comprehend the sustainable value of AM technologies within the manufacturing cycle for a variety of business cases,” remarked Sherri Monroe, the AMGTA’s Executive Director.

“This collective study with Stratasys and Pattern Group, evaluating the repercussions of a print-to-textile process, is our initial research venture dealing with polymer. It provides crucial data that backs the importance of AM in affecting one of the historically most damaging industries globally.”

Moreover, Stratasys CEO Dr. Yoav Zeif stated, “This study demonstrates how the implementation of our advanced AM offering allows customers to offer manufacturing solutions that enhance their environmental impact while simultaneously providing competitive edge through innovative production for design.”

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

How was the study conducted?

The study, initiated in 2022, looked into the production of a 3D shoe accessory and compared traditional manufacturing methods with additive manufacturing techniques.

For the traditional method, a multi-step procedure was carried out, including 2D inkjet printing and thermal bonding of injection-molded parts with sheet polyurethane materials. Contrastingly, the additive manufacturing process was much more straightforward and involved material jetting using photocurable liquid resins.

The research assessed and contrasted both procedures, undertaking a production cycle of 16,000 logo components for 8,000 pairs of shoes. The elements created via additive manufacturing employed the Stratasys Polyjet J850 TechStyle 3D printer.

The post-manufacturing evaluation took into account the environmental consequences linked with the manufacturing procedures and materials utilized. The primary evaluation metrics included air, water, and land emissions. Within the report, air emissions were demonstrated as Global Warming Potential (GWP) gauged in equivalent units of carbon dioxide (CO2e).

Note that this research didn’t offer a comprehensive Life-Cycle-Analysis (LCA) of the completed footwear. Instead, a thorough Life-Cycle-Inventory (LCI) for the 3D logo component production phase, eventually leading to shoe production, was presented.

This research examined every input and output from the production phase. The inputs involved energy and raw materials, while outputs encompassed emissions to air, water and soil, solid waste production, and co-products.

3D logo component position on the shoe. Image via AMGTA.

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 was discovered to use 49.3% less material by weight compared to the traditional manufacturing supply chain, representing savings of a third of a metric ton of raw material. Additionally, the 3D printed accessory utilizes 50.5% less material as compared to its traditionally manufactured counterpart, yielding a lighter final product.

The research also revealed that traditional manufacturing of the 16,000 logo components necessitated over 300,000 liters of water, attributable to the use of a paper-backed PU sheet as the primary binding agent. In contrast, 3D printing did not require water usage.

In regard to energy consumption, traditional injection molding and thermal bonding manufacturing methods consumed 7,122 kWh of electrical energy. On the other hand, material jetting 3D printing only needed 2,548 kWh, which is 64% less electricity compared to conventional manufacturing methods.

Nevertheless, the research emphasized that both conventional and additive manufacturing procedures generated approximately 150 kg of non-recyclable waste. Traditional manufacturing also produced 131 kg of recyclable waste, with no recyclable waste streams linked to the 3D printing method.

Furthermore, it was observed that the traditional manufacturing supply chain slightly lower environmental impact compared to the 3D printing supply chain in terms of transport-related emissions. This disparity is due to the longer distances involved in transporting speciality resins, as traditional manufacturing employs local supply chain partners.

Assessing the sustainability of additive manufacturing

There’s certainly an increasing emphasis on sustainability in additive manufacturing. Earlier in the year, AMGTA executed an LCA to contrast traditional casting with binder jetting for an industrial component.

The LCA was carried out jointly by the Yale School of the Environment (YSE), industrial 3D printer manufacturer Desktop Metal, and US-based climate innovator Trane Technologies. Ultimately, binder jet 3D printing demonstrated a 38% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions, primarily due to lower energy consumption during the manufacturing process.

In other news, 3D Printing Industry was present at the AM Summit 2023, the biggest add-on production conference in Scandinavia. There, there was a substantial emphasis on sustainability and 3D printing.

Original source


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