Energy and Resource Efficiency of SLS/SLM Processes

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Kellens, K.
Yasa, E.
Dewulf, W.
Kruth, J.P.
Duflou, J.R.

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University of Texas at Austin


Manufacturing processes, as used for discrete part manufacturing, are responsible for a substantial part of the environmental impact of products, but are still poorly documented in terms of their environmental footprint. The lack of thorough analysis of manufacturing processes has as consequence that optimization opportunities are often not recognized and that improved machine tool design in terms of ecological footprint has only been targeted for a few common processes. Additive manufacturing processes such as Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Selective Laser Melting (SLM) allow near-net shape manufacturing of complex work pieces. Consequently, they inherently offer opportunities for minimum-waste and sustainable manufacturing. Nevertheless, powder production, energy consumption as well as powder losses are important and not always optimized environmental impact drivers of SLS and SLM. This paper presents the results of a data collection effort, allowing to assess the overall environmental impact of these processes using the methodology of the CO2PE! (Cooperative Effort on Process Emissions in Manufacturing) initiative. Based on the collected LCI data, a subsequent impact assessment analysis allows identifying the most important contributors to the environmental impact of SLS/SLM. Next to the electricity consumption, the consumption of inert gasses proves to be an important cause of environmental impact. Finally, the paper sketches the improvement potential for SLS/SLM on machine tool as well as system level.


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