Exploring the Role of 3D Printing in Crafting Sustainable Shoes


3D material jetted logo applique for luxury designer footwear [Source: AMGTA]

Study shows additive manufacturing yields lower CO2 emissions and reduced waste.

If you’ve only been paying attention to 3D printing in the aerospace and medical device industries, you might be forgiven for thinking that the killer additive manufacturing (AM) app is fuel nozzles or prosthetics. To be sure, part consolidation and customizability are heavy benefits to weigh for any engineer considering AM. But sustainability is another advantage of 3D printing compared to traditional manufacturing processes, and there’s no better demonstration of this fact than in fashion.

The Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA) has just released the results of a life-cycle inventory study that purports to show just how much of a difference to sustainability 3D printing can make in fashion. Entitled Comparative Analysis: 3D Material Jetting vs Traditional Methods for Designer Luxury Goods, the study was conducted by U.K. consultancy Reeves Insight in partnership with 3D printing giant Stratasys, and Dyloan Bond Factory, a fashion engineering and production company.

Research compared traditional fabrication methods with Additive Manufacturing (AM) an applique logo (similar to the Nike swoosh on a sneaker) for designer footwear. The findings revealed that 3D printing on fabric using photocurable liquid resins led to a 24.8 percent drop in CO2 emissions and a 49.9 percent decrease in stock material used, compared to the conventional process, which usage of 2D inkjet printing and thermal welding of injection-moulded parts with sheet polyurethane materials. Furthermore, the AM process lowered energy usage by 64 percent.

Some key points to consider:

  • The research only focused on a single component (the applique logo), not the entire shoe.
  • The production run analysed consisted of 16,000 logo components for 8,000 pairs of shoes.
  • The research underwent peer review by the Laboratory for Machine Tools and Production Engineering at RWTH Aachen University.

At a first look, it may seem that applying AM so specifically could prevent any broader implications from being drawn. It raises the question, from a sustainability standpoint, how much of a difference could 3D printing the logos onto shoes potentially make?

One striking figure from the results is: over 300,000 liters (79,252 gallons) of water was saved through the AM process across all 16,000 parts. That’s because the requirement for up-stream paper-backed materials, which consume vast quantities of water to produce, was eradicated by binder jetting.

You can continue reading this story at ENGINEERING.com

Original source


“Why did the 3D printer go to therapy? Because it had too many layers of unresolved issues!”

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