Working paper on implications of additive manufacturing on sustainability

Gaining a better understanding of the implications of additive manufacturing on sustainability is something of great interest to us on the Bit by Bit project. Today I’m pleased to share with you a working paper that has recently been published in the Centre for Technology Management’s working paper series: “The Role of Additive Manufacturing in Improving Resource Efficiency and Sustainability” by Mélanie Despeisse and Simon Ford. Click here to access.


Additive manufacturing is heralded as a revolutionary process technology. While it has yet to cause a dramatic transformation of the manufacturing system, there are early signs of how the characteristics of this novel production process can improve resource efficiency and other sustainability aspects. In this paper, we draw on examples from a wide range of products and industries to understand the role of additive manufacturing in sustainable industrial systems. We identify four main areas in which the adoption of additive manufacturing is leading to improved resource efficiency: (1) product and process design; (2) material input processing; (3) make-to-order product and component manufacturing; and (4) closing the loop.

Keywords: Additive manufacturing, 3D printing, sustainability

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Introducing the 3DP-RDM Feasibility Studies: Organising Production Technology Into Most Responsive States – 3D Print Machine Enabled Networks (OPTIMOS PRIME)

Following the recent feasibility study competition, the 3DP-RDM network is funding four projects in 2015. In this series of blog posts we introduce the four studies. Today we introduce the fourth and final study, “Organising Production Technology Into Most Responsive States – 3D Print Machine Enabled Networks (OPTIMOS PRIME)”, which is being led by Prof. Duncan McFarlane at the University of Cambridge and involving researchers at both Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh. 

A major challenge for manufacturing supply networks is that of making operations lean for cost and efficiency reasons while at the same time maintaining a level of responsiveness that enables the organisation to respond to changing demands for customised products and requests for spares and repairs, along with demonstrate resilience to delays in the supply base in manufacturing operations. This project will examine the possibility of integrating 3D printing (and more broadly additive manufacturing) into conventional production environments, exploiting the ability of 3D printing to provide a rapid response customisation capability to supplement existing facilities. In particular it will focus on how the technology can be used to underpin spares and repair services which are often at odds with mainstream production.

The objectives of the project include the development of a simple control architecture that integrates multiple production sites including 3D printing systems; a demonstration system that explores the feasibility of effectively integrating conventional and 3D printing to support late customisation, spares and repairs requests and small batch orders; and an approach for assessing the potential for using a mixed convention / 3rd party 3D printing approach for different industrial conditions. It is anticipated that the information architecture developed for the management of these different facilities will be cloud-based, allowing for a common management and control system to be deployed across multiple sites.

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Call for papers on additive manufacturing and 3D printing

Last week we reported that the Journal of Industrial Ecology has an open call for papers on the environmental dimensions of additive manufacturing and 3D printing. In addition to this call we’ve found the following calls for papers that are currently open on the subjects of additive manufacturing and 3D printing.

Journal of the Institution of Engineers (India) – Series C Additive Manufacturing 31/08/2015
Additive Manufacturing Industrial Applications 01/09/2015
International Journal of Rapid Manufacturing Recent Advances in Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing Technologies 01/09/2015
International Journal of Production Research Management of automation and advanced manufacturing technology (AAMT) in the context of global manufacturing 30/09/2015

If you know about other calls or are planning to edit a special issue in this domain then we’d be very pleased to hear about those too.

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