Fraunhofer ILT and 6K Additive collaborate to develop a comprehensive LCA for additive manufacturing

Industrial 3D printing materials manufacturer 6K Additive, a division of 6K, and Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT have announced a collaboration to create a complete life cycle assessment (LCA) for additive manufacturing.

“There are conflicting views on additive manufacturing regarding its environmental impact compared to traditional manufacturing. The goal for this study is to analyze factual data to help us understand the real environmental impact of printing a metal AM part using LPBF,” said Dr. Jasmin Saewe, Head of the Department Laser Powder Bed Fusion at Fraunhofer ILT.

Fraunhofer Institute of Laser Technology. Image via 6K.
Fraunhofer Institute of Laser Technology. Image via 6K.

What aspects does the study highlight?

To help comprehend the carbon emissions from material through the additive manufacturing process and post-processing, the study will employ sustainably manufactured Ni718 powder produced by 6K Additive for an industrial component produced on a laser powder bed fusion machine. Early results from the study were displayed at the Fraunhofer ILT stand # 51 Hall 11 at Formnext 2022.

The UniMelt platform from 6K provides multifaceted sustainability benefits unmatched by any other material production platform in the world, says the company.  Previously, 6K Additive published two life cycle assessment projects for titanium and nickel powders. Foresight Management, an independent company, conducted this study, which measured the ecological impacts associated with the manufacturing of printable metal powders and particularly compared atomization technology methods to 6K Additive. It was discovered that 6K’s UniMelt process provided at least a 91% energy reduction and a 92% carbon emission reduction over conventional processes for Ni718 powder.

“We are excited to partner with Jasmin and her team at Fraunhofer ILT for this research. Our previous study clearly highlighted the environmental advantages our UniMelt technology has over atomization, but this collaboration takes it to the next step shedding light on the entire AM process. The market has embraced sustainability and the results of this study will provide the tools to allow customers to identify real solutions and help organizations drive toward carbon neutrality,” said Frank Roberts, President of 6K Additive.

“We also thought it was extremely important to evaluate the entire process, including powder manufacturing, which is why we partnered with 6K Additive, which has a proven method of sustainable powder manufacturing,” added the Head of the Department Laser Powder Bed Fusion at Fraunhofer ILT.

Dr. Jasmin Saewe, Head of the Department Laser Powder Bed Fusion at Fraunhofer ILT. Image via Fraunhofer ILT.
Dr. Jasmin Saewe, Head of the Department Laser Powder Bed Fusion at Fraunhofer ILT. Image via Fraunhofer ILT.

Life cycle assessments in additive manufacturing

Previously, the SAM (Sector Skills Strategy in Additive Manufacturing) project released the initial findings of its 3D printing survey, which examined the role of additive manufacturing education in ecological sustainability, among other things. The EU-funded project, coordinated by the European Welding Federation (EWF), of which 3D Printing Industry was reportedly a SAM Associated Partner, was creating a European Observatory in AM to classify and deliver the necessary skills for the technology. As part of this, the project was instrumental in combining the International AM Qualification System (IAMQS) and, consequently the survey results, proposed a competence unit to address the topic of sustainability in additive manufacturing.

Furthermore, the Additive Manufacturer Green Trade Association (AMGTA) announced the start of a research project; a life cycle assessment (LCA) that compared a 3D printed aerospace part to one that is conventionally manufactured. The LCA was carried out by the Rochester Institute of Technology‘s (RIT) Golisano Institute for Sustainability (GIS), which compared the cradle-to-grave environmental impacts of a jet engine low-pressure turbine (LPT) bracket generated using conventional manufacturing techniques with one that is 3D printed.

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Feature image shows the Fraunhofer Institute of Laser Technology. Image via 6K.