Energy savings through additive manufacturing: An analysis of selective laser sintering for automotive and aircraft components
The general consensus is that 3D-printing technologies can help to render industrial production more sustainable, e.g. by shortening process chains, allowing more efficient production processes or providing benefits resulting from light-weight construction. This paper aims to quantify the impact of additive manufacturing processes on energy demand by examining selective laser sintering (SLS). To this end, a model is suggested and applied that focuses on three important phases in the life cycle of additively manufactured components and that allows a comparison with conventional manufacturing processes. The three phases considered are the production of the required raw material, the actual manufacturing process of specific components and their utilisation. The analysis focuses on the automotive and aircraft industries. The main factors influencing energy demand are analysed and discussed, and the impact of additive manufacturing is estimated on a national level for a sample component based on Germany as an example. The results indicate that substantial energy savings can be achieved, even though only a small component was replaced.