5+ 3D Printing Sustainability Trends in 2022

| The Essentium Team


engineer looking at materials

In Essentium’s recent third-party study about 3D printing trends, manufacturers were asked to indicate how vital 3D printing is to their sustainability initiatives. One hundred percent of the respondents said it is important, and more than 75 percent said it is “very” important. This confidence reveals that 3D printing sustainability efforts will be crucial as companies shift toward greener manufacturing. 

3D Printing Sustainability Trends 

graph highlighting 3d printing sustainability trends

Traditional manufacturing methods often can be wasteful, resulting in discarded components during the iteration process. In addition, these processes may also consume more energy and raw materials with less focus on greener techniques. Participants were asked what impact they expected 3D printing to have on sustainability initiatives.

Based on the response in the 2021 Trends in 3D Printing at Scale Report, it is evident that the manufacturing landscape is seeing a shift toward greener practices, and 3D printing sustainability efforts are leading the way. 

1. Waste Reduction

Forty-five percent of respondents said 3D printing sustainability initiatives have the biggest impact on waste reduction. Compared to traditional subtractive manufacturing methods, additive manufacturing (AM) inherently creates less material waste. Instead of machining material away to create parts or molds, 3D printing allows manufacturers to use only the material needed. However, material waste is only a portion of the waste reduction possibility from 3D printing sustainability initiatives. 

2. Minimizing Overruns

The second highest result was minimizing two other types of waste, cost and time. In the design phase of manufacturing, parts often require weeks of iterating numerous prototypes. This process can waste raw material, as well as cost and time. 3D printing allows manufacturers to design, print, test, iterate, and finalize in days, reducing waste. In addition, complex parts often are made up of multiple components that need to be manufactured and then assembled. With 3D printing, parts with complex geometries can be produced in a single piece, preventing time and cost overruns. 

3. Reducing Logistical Requirements 

With every product order that comes in, manufacturers’ warehousing costs and other capital expenses (CapEx) increase. With AM, manufacturers can reduce these costs and directly produce parts on the fly. In addition to reducing CapEx costs, the power and labor needed for warehousing drop, decreasing carbon footprint. 

4. Limiting Carbon Footprint

Thirty-seven percent of respondents said 3D printing impacts their carbon footprint. As companies place greater importance on carbon footprint optimization, AM will allow them to develop ecosystems that capitalize on the logistic-based carbon footprint advantages. Some of these include on-site printing and minimized warehousing. 

5. Reducing Transportation of Parts

Reducing the transportation of parts is one of the most effective ways companies can reduce their carbon footprint. Products are often made up of components from various vendors and then transported several times for production, packaging, and finally, distribution. Each phase of this supply chain employs planes, trucks, ships, and other means of transport to get the product to the next location, all of which emit exhaust, increasing the company’s carbon footprint. Using a 3D printer, manufacturers can design, produce, package, and distribute products all from local hubs, substantially reducing their carbon footprint. 

6. Shorten Supply Chains

When manufacturers use 3D printing sustainably initiatives to increase local production, they effectively shorten the supply chain. The benefit of doing this is decreased lead time, production costs, and carbon footprint. Shorter supply chains also increase agility. When COVID-19 shut down the global supply chain, Essentium was able to design, prototype, produce, and distribute direct-manufactured masks in a matter of weeks. This would not have been possible without AM. 

For a closer look at these findings, download Essentium’s 2021 Trends in 3D Printing at Scale report. 


Essentium, Inc. provides industrial 3D printing solutions that are disrupting traditional manufacturing processes by bringing product strength and production speed together, at scale, with a no-compromise engineering material set. Essentium manufactures and delivers innovative industrial 3D printers, materials, software, and services, enabling the world’s top manufacturers to bridge the gap between 3D printing and machining and embrace the future of advanced manufacturing. Essentium is AS9100D certified and ITAR registered. 


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