The Role of Additive Manufacturing in Improving Resource Efficiency and Sustainability

Mélanie Despeisse (Centre for Industrial Sustainability, IfM)

Simon Ford (Centre for Technology Management, IfM)


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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