Additive manufacturing and its effect on sustainable design

Olaf Diegel, Per Kristav, Damien Motte, Babak Kianian

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearch


'Sustainability' is an emerging issue that product development engineers must engage with to remain relevant, competitive and, most importantly, responsible. Yet, on examining the term 'sustainable', a plethora of definitions emerges, many of which are contradictory and confusing. This confusion and a general lack of understanding means that sustainability often gets relegated to an afterthought or a buzz-word used on marketing material, no matter how 'sustainable' the product actually is. The role of the 'sustainable' product developer is to look for new opportunities to design products that minimize harmful effects on the environment and to seek to develop environmental, social, and economically beneficial product solutions. The advent of additive manufacturing technologies presents a number of opportunities that have the potential to benefit designers greatly and contribute to the sustainability of products. Products can be extensively customized for the user, thus potentially increasing their desirability, pleasure and attachment-and therefore longevity. Additive manufacturing technologies have also removed many of the manufacturing restrictions that may previously have compromised a designer's ability to make the product they imagined which, once again, can increase product desirability, pleasure and attachment. As additive manufacturing technologies evolve, design methodologies for lightweighting, such as topology optimization, become more advanced, more new materials become available, and multiple material technologies are developed, the field of product design has the potential for great change. This chapter examines aspects of additive manufacturing from a sustainable design perspective and looks at the potential to create entirely new business models that could bring about the sustainable design of consumer products. It first gives a brief literature review both on sustainable product development and on additive manufacturing, and then examines several case study products that were made with additive manufacturing. It concludes that there is a likelihood that additive manufacturing allows more sustainable products to be developed, but also that more quantifiable research is needed in the area to allow designers to exploit better the features of additive manufacturing that can maximize sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Sustainability in Additive Manufacturing
EditorsSubramanian Senthilkannan Muthu, Monica Mahesh Savalani
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)978-981-10-0549-7
ISBN (Print)978-981-10-0547-3
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameEnvironmental Footprints and Eco-design of Products and Processes
ISSN (Print)2345-7651
ISSN (Electronic)2345-766X

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics


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