America Makes announces winners of $1.2 million sustainability project

America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, and the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) have awarded $1.2 million to the winners of the Environmental Additive Research for Tomorrow’s Habitat (EARTH) project.  

The project is being funded by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Research and Engineering Manufacturing Technology Office (OSD(R&E)), and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). 

Two teams have won the award, the topic of which is titled “Analysis of AM Sustainability and Environmental Benefits.” 

The first winning team is being led by IC3D, Inc., and includes participation from 3Degrees, Harrisburg University, and The Ohio State University. The team’s project is titled “Accelerating Additive in Department of Defense (DoD) Applications of High-Performance Recycled Polymers.”

The second team is being led by Raytheon’s RTX Technology Research Center, and includes 6K Additive and The University of Arizona. This team is focusing on “Powder and Process Optimization for Sustainable Additive Manufacturing (POSAM).”  

“There is the need to acknowledge the potential environmental impact of AM innovations within the manufacturing industry, even as it invests resources in research and development,” stated America Makes Technology Director Brandon Ribic.  

“We applaud the efforts of the awardees in exploring sustainable approaches for reusing and recycling AM materials and designs. Their initiatives are expected to make a substantial contribution to reducing waste, conserving energy, and mitigating carbon emissions.”

National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) logo. Image via NCDMM.
National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM) logo. Image via NCDMM.

The $1.2M EARTH project 

Founded in 2012, America Makes aims to increase the adoption of 3D printing within the USA to advance the country’s global manufacturing competitiveness. A key way that the institute works to achieve this is through project calls. These projects offer financial backing to member organizations that offer fresh approaches to common issues within the 3D printing industry.   

Over the past year, America Makes has launched and awarded a range of project calls. For instance, in July 2023 the organization announced a project call worth $11.7 million to improve the additive manufacturing productivity. Earlier this month, six winners of an open additive manufacturing project call worth $1.2 million were announced.    

The EARTH project centers around sustainable practices in additive manufacturing, and seeks to encourage the recycling and reutilization of 3D printing materials. 

The award winners will now play a key role in identifying and validating additive manufacturing designs and materials that meet the necessary sustainability-related  qualifications and performance standards for end users.  

During the execution phase of the programme, the teams will report on their progress at the America Makes Technical Review and Exchange, as well as during other industry events.

“The forward-thinking of our industry partners demonstrates a commitment to understanding sustainable AM practices which will influence future adoption of the technology in a variety of sectors,” added Ribic. 

The America Makes building in Youngstown, Ohio. Photo via America Makes.
The America Makes building in Youngstown, Ohio. Photo via America Makes.

Sustainability and additive manufacturing 

Improving sustainability and securing circular supply chains are key issues within the current 3D printing industry. As such, a number of companies are working to reutilize and recycle materials used in additive manufacturing.

Carbon fiber material recycling specialist Vartega recently announced that it has secured $10 million in equity financing to bolster its 100% recycled carbon fiber 3D printing material bundles. This funding will be used to optimize the company’s 82,000-square-foot Denver-based production facility. Vartega will also work to commercialize additional recycling processes to extend sustainable feedstock availability.  

Vartega is actively collaborating with 3D printing material manufacturer Xtellar to produce sustainable 3D printing materials. Xtellar currently offers four different materials that incorporate Vartega’s recycled carbon fiber. These include the company’s FL900PP-CF 100% recycled carbon fiber reinforced polypropylene 3D printing filament. 

Elsewhere, North Carolina-based titanium developer IperionX is supplying Ford with 100% recycled, low-carbon titanium powder. This agreement forms part of an ongoing collaboration that sees the two companies design, 3D print, and test titanium components for Ford Performance production vehicles. IperionX’s titanium can be fully recycled at the end of the product’s life, improving sustainability and enabling a fully circular supply chain.        

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Featured image shows the America Makes logo. Image via America Makes.