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Journal of Cleaner Production


Thayer School of Engineering


Additive manufacturing often has higher environmental impacts per part than traditional manufacturing at scale, but new materials can enable more sustainable 3D printing. This study developed and tested novel materials for paste extrusion printing, and tested materials invented by others. Testing compared their whole-system environmental impacts to standard ABS extrusion, measured by life cycle assessment (LCA); testing also assessed material strength, printability, and cost. Materials were chosen for low print energy (chemical bonding, not melting), low toxicity, and circular life cycle (biodegradable, ideally sourced from waste biomaterial). Printing energy was reduced 75% (from 160 to 40 Wh/part), and embodied impacts of materials were reduced 82% (from 6.6 to 1.2 ReCiPe Endpoint H millipoints/part). Overall impacts per part were reduced 78% (from 27 to 6 ReCiPe Endpoint H millipoints/part), including embodied impacts of the printer itself, in a maximum utilization scenario. Results were also compared to previous studies of seven different 3D printers of various types. More than ten material recipes were tested, and pecan shell flour with sodium silicate showed the best print quality. Strength and print quality did not approach ABS, but material cost was cut by 50%. Thus, while further development is required, some materials show promise for greener additive manufacturing.




This is the author's submitted manuscript, which can be shared under the Dartmouth Faculty Open Access Policy. The publisher prohibits sharing the final PDF version.