At Formnext, the international trade fair for additive manufacturing currently running in Frankfurt, Siemens is focussing on the opportunity to demonstrate what sustainable additive manufacturing looks like.
Among others, the company is showing the sustainability benefits that additive manufacturing can bring to product design. Using 3D printing to produce a gripper for a handling robot used in automotive production, it is shown how the total mass of the product could be reduced by 64 percent. The design freedom offered by additive manufacturing made a significant reduction in weight and material possible. The original gripper weighed over 58 kg and comprised more than 660 parts. 3 D printing eliminated the need for complex assemblies, thus cutting assembly time by 80 percent, lowering production costs by 73 percent, while achieving an 82 percent smaller carbon footprint. Moreover, the lower weight of the part means that smaller robots could be used, which yields an annual energy saving of 54 percent.
Energy consumption is also the focus of another example, an additive manufacturing solution developed in collaboration with Genera, a global supplier of highly automated, photopolymer-based additive manufacturing technologies, using the AM Digital Factory Planning toolbox from Siemens Advanta. For this application, the large-scale production of plug connections is simulated using digital light processing. The ‘Digital Twin of Production’ then enables analyses of the energy consumption of the 3D printers under different machine states to be made, without interfering with running systems. These analyses showed a more efficient energy management was possible, yielding savings of between 25 and 30 percent of the energy requirement per component produced, depending on the utilisation of the printers.
Environmentally-friendly materials can be used to 3D print components used in construction and infrastructure, as another Siemens display at the show demonstrates. AM machine builder CEAD and Poly Products, a Dutch composite materials expert, have developed 3D-printed flax harbour fenders as part of the EU's SeaBioComp project. Harbour fenders are buffers that ensure that the quay walls do not damage the outer walls of the ships lying in port and are usually made of a plastic material. However, abraded fender material subsequently enters the sea as microplastics. Flax fenders are just as resistant as conventional harbour fenders; but have a smaller carbon footprint and the flax is 100 percent biodegradable. To produce the flax fenders, Poly Products uses a 3D printer with a control system from Siemens.
The company is also displaying the possibilities offered by the Siemens AM Network to maximise production efficiency and utilisation of the equipment.
Additive manufacturing opens the door for manufacturing decentralisation, says Siemens, ’changing the existing paradigm of expensive physical inventory to a digital warehouse, where the goods are produced only when needed’ - nearby the point of consumption; it increases the supply chain resiliency, decreases inventory costs, and decreases the transportation CO2 emissions. Using the additive manufacturing digital solutions developed by Siemens, organisations can build, verify and certify these digital assets into pre-defined libraries, ‘ready to be ordered by click of a button’.
The Siemens AM Network routes these manufacturing requests to the most appropriate production sites, avoiding unnecessary downtimes; plus the energy spent in warming up and cool-down of the 3D printer is optimally used. In addition, companies can digitally interact with each other to optimise the use of underutilised production facilities with fluctuating production needs.