It is of great importance to consider the issue of sustainability from the outset in the further development of AM processes and their areas of application in order to find the most promising areas of application for AM. In fact, it is often the case that at first glance AM offers no or only a few advantages over conventional manufacturing because, for example, the printing process is more cost- and energy-intensive than the machining of a component.
The benefits of AM technology can therefore only be properly assessed when the entire product life cycle (“cradle to grave”) is considered. This is where AM shows its full potential: By enabling completely new designs and structures, raw materials can be saved compared to machining and, in particular, weight can be saved in the final component. When a printed component is used in trains or aircraft, for example, this results in significantly reduced energy costs due to the permanently reduced vehicle weight. While the benefits of reduced weight in vehicles are still relatively intuitive to grasp, similar potential applications can also be found in other areas of application: Siemens AG, for example, has succeeded in redesigning the gripper of an industrial robot to save materials. Compared to the initial situation, 54% energy could be saved in the use of the robot. Since the re-design applied to numerous robots along an entire production line, there was a scaling savings effect for the entire plant.