Quantifying the overall impact of additive manufacturing on energy demand: The case of selective laser-sintering processes 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, by allowing more efficient production processes or by providing benefits resulting from light-weight construction. In this paper, we aim to quantify the impact of additive manufacturing processes on energy demand by taking the example of selective laser-sintering (SLS). For this purpose,we suggest and apply a model that distinguishes three important phases in the life-cycle of additively manufactured components and which allows to compare them to conventional manufacturing processes. The three phases under consideration include the production of the required raw material, the actual manufacturing process of specific components as well as their utilization.The analysis focuses on the automotive and aircraft industries. In the paper, we analyze and discuss main factors influencing energy demand and estimate the impact of additive manufacturing on a national level, taking Germany as an example. The analysis indicates that despite replacing only a small component, substantial energy savings can be achieved. Furthermore, the utilization phase appears to be very relevant for achieving energy savings in the considered industries as compared to the other two phases.