Low Carbon Metal 3D Printing with WAM

Apr 11, 2022 | External News, Blog

With a global push for a net zero economy, many organisations support the race to zero and are implementing plans to create a more sustainable, healthier, and zero carbon world.

According to the UN High-Level Climate Champions & Marrakech Partnership, 2030 Breakthroughs Report, 73% of global emissions are covered by a net zero goal. These goals are up to each country’s Government to translate into credible policies for individuals and businesses to understand and take charge of this transformational journey.

Things are happening far and wide in each sector regarding climate change, including the seven most energy-intensive industries, all of which AML3D has provided services and products.

“To win the race to zero emissions by 2050, the world must achieve near term breakthroughs across every sector of the global economy.
UN High-Level Climate Champions & Marrakech Partnership, 2030 Breakthroughs Report

The United Nations has set a net zero target for 2050. source: Adobe Stock, MYZONEFOTO

The United Nations has set a net zero target for 2050.

What is net zero?

In the simplest form, net-zero refers to the balance of greenhouse gases made verse the amount taken from the atmosphere. Net-zero is achieved as a society and economy once the amount of carbon taken from the atmosphere is greater than the amount added.

Energy-intense heavy industries such as chemicals, aviation, and maritime makeup over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. These industries will face a larger challenge than others to achieve the net zero objectives, requiring out-of-the-box thinking towards decarbonisation. What is known is that inaction is not an option for these industries and that collaboration will be key in delivering sector decarbonisation.

At this point, a distinction must be made between achieving net zero and understanding that it is not the same as eliminating all emissions. Net zero means that all human-made carbon dioxide or other emissions that cause the planet to warm that can’t be avoided are removed from the atmosphere in another fashion. It means finding the balance naturally, via reforestation, to absorb emissions or using technology to minimise them.

Why is it important?

Global warming, sustainability and creating a legacy for our children and future generations to come are why the activities around net zero are important. The science around climate change shows that global warming is directly proportional to the total amount of carbon dioxide that society adds to the atmosphere. Global warming is responsible for worsening and extreme weather conditions, making some areas of our world uninhabitable. This change of habitat causes migration and inflames hunger across species around the globe.

To summarise, decarbonisation is about creating a long-term sustainable future. The path to net zero will create jobs, boost economies, drive innovation and have a healthy planet.

What is the correlation between net zero and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)?

Net zero falls under an organisation’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, which holds them accountable, in a qualitative way, to social commitments that they have within their wider communities. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) is the quantified measurement of social efforts. Think of it this way, CSR is the doing, and ESG is the measurement of how successful it is. Both CSR and ESG are more than public perception; it is about empowering company culture, embracing diversity and doing social good, making a difference.

The path to decarbonisation is not a “plug and play” approach. What works in one sector may not work in another, and many operations are looking at achieving net zero emissions from activities under their control. But those who truly want to make an impact understand that it’s not just assessing and improving the existing value chain; it is also doing the same for supply chain providers.

As a collective, we need to recognise that there is no single solution, but instead, there are multiple solutions that require changes from consumers to governments to businesses. The approach to carbon neutrality may also see larger organisations encouraging and supporting smaller suppliers to their net zero journeys.

Sustainability in Additive Manufacturing

Scaling low carbon technologies is one of the ways that sustainability in manufacturing can be achieved. Energy-intense industries must adopt a change mindset, be willing to commit to a supply outcome by different means, and transition from traditional to emerging technologies.

Additive Manufacturing (AM) is much more mature in North America, Europe, Asia and the United Kingdom than in some other regions. It is largely driven by the appetite created by challenging how things are currently done and how they can be done better. As a result, many larger players in sectors such as aviation and aerospace are already teaching their engineers to think additive first. This attitude is driven by the knowledge that Additive Manufacturing already represents a more sustainable means of production; less material is used due to the 3D printing process, minimising excess material waste from the outset.

There are over 18 different types of additive manufacturing technologies, or 3D printing technologies, available to the market. Your part or component size, material, requirements and industry standards should largely govern the correct technology to be used for production. Users must be aware that not all techniques are created equal; even within process types, there are variances within the technology.

AM Power Insights infographic for the metal additive technology landscape.

AM Power Insights infographic for the metal additive technology landscape. Source: AM Power

While each technology looks at improving the circular economy, not all technologies are created equal. Some technologies require closed environments due to the toxicity of gases produced in the print process; others have metal and polymer powders that can not be recycled easily.

The AM process itself demonstrates a more sustainable part and component supply, employing a layer-on-layer application process. When compared to traditional manufacturing, this additive layering process eliminates the use of excess materials. Less material indicates the need for less energy in the creation process.

What is the difference that Wire Additive Manufacturing (WAM®) can make?

The patented Wire Additive Manufacturing process that AML3D uses, which falls under the Directed Energy Deposition – Arc (DED-Arc) category, is one of the lower carbon technologies available in metal 3D printing. Let us explore why:

          • Less material waste – near net shape printing means less material waste. In some applications, not all surface areas of parts require machining, lowering material waste again;
          • Stronger material properties – parts and components have a longer life cycle;
          • Wider material alternatives – comparable stronger, lighter weight materials are available;
          • Improved buy-to-fly ratios – conventional manufacturing process for AI and Ti parts commonly have ratios of 12:1 and 25:1; the equivalent in AM are closer to 1.5:1. This results in significant fuel savings for shipping and aerospace industries over the lifetime of a part;
          • Repair – scanning technology, combined with WAM®, enables the repair of non-critical parts;
          • Hybrid manufacturing – traditional and new technologies can be combined in situations where it may be more cost or resource effective;
          • Production flexibility – Large scale parts can be produced as one-off prototypes without tooling. And the process is perfect for small to medium quantity runs. The technology also offers a print on demand solution for just-in-time supply for maintenance and sustainability programs.
Learn about AML3D's Part Capability

How does WAM® contribute to low carbon manufacturing?

Let’s talk about power consumption with AML3D’s ARCEMY and patented WAM® process.

When printing a part with ER70S, a mild carbon steel, with our robotic welding technology, we use 9 kW while welding, consuming 1.7 kWh per kg of printed metal, putting the WAM® process on par with casting techniques. A typical cast steel product uses about 2.75 kWh/kg.

In the interest of being transparent, this data does not include the cradle to gate calculations for the production of the wire feedstock or the energy required to manufacture componentry featured in our ARCEMY® metal 3D printing systems. For this article, a boundary has been set around assessing life cycle inventory.

When talking about emissions, there is a direct correlation between CO2 emissions and power consumption; the higher the power consumption, the higher the greenhouse gas emissions.

Further comparisons of Additive Manufacturing technologies indicate that WAM® (or WAAM) uses less power for printing when compared to Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS). For industry, this is incredibly promising when considering the large scale capability of Wire Additive Manufacturing as to other AM processes.

Power Consumption per kg of metal by WAAM, EBM & DMLS.

Emissions are only a part of the story when comparing WAM® to traditional manufacturing processes. Additional savings can be found with material waste. Compared to billet machining, the material waste savings experienced can be significant.

On a customer project involving martensitic rings, not only was AML3D able to deliver the rings quicker, we were able to save 70 per cent of material waste.

Material waste comparison of martensitic rings; traditional subtractive manufacturing process v.s wire additive manufacturing by AML3D.

Source: AML3D.

In a second example, to see how far we could push material waste savings, we produced a stainless steel propeller/side-thruster. Billet machining from 462 kg of raw material for a 22 kg part resulted in 95 per cent of material waste, which is some 440 kg of wasted material. With WAM®, we had a gross wire feedstock deposition of 50 kg. That’s only 28 kg of material waste; using WAM® produced 94 per cent material waste savings.

WAM® printed stainless steel side thruster/propeller.

Material waste comparison of a propeller; traditional subtractive manufacturing process v.s wire additive manufacturing by AML3D.

Subtractive WAM®
Raw Material (kg)46250
Machined Material (kg)44028
Finished Part (kg)2222
Machining Time * (hr)976
Arc On Time (hr)17
Material Waste Savings95%

How can we decarbonise our supply chain?

The first step to decarbonising your supply chain is to think about how you can build a more resilient business and improve your value chain.

As an organisation, if you are managing your metal manufacturing supply chain internally, it is about exploring technologies that can help you do it better. How can you do it differently?

If you outsource to partners, improving your supply chain in the face of decarbonisation will mean encouraging and challenging them to explore how they can do it better. How can they do it differently?

It comes down to being an early adopter, a champion for the cause, and maybe, being a first mover. And that’s okay!

AML3D is here to help you solve your manufacturing challenges using our Industry 4.0 capability and contract manufacturing services; all you have to do is ask how.

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About AML3D Limited

AML3D Limited, a publicly listed technology company founded in 2014, utilises new technologies to pioneer and lead metal additive manufacturing globally. Disrupting the traditional manufacturing space, AML3D has developed and patented a Wire Additive Manufacturing (WAM®) process that metal 3D prints commercial, large-scale parts for Aerospace, Defence, Maritime, Manufacturing, Mining and Oil & Gas.

AML3D provides parts contract manufacturing from its Technology Centre in Adelaide, Australia, and is the OEM of ARCEMY®, an industrial metal 3D printing system that combines IIoT and Industry 4.0 to enable manufacturers to become globally competitive.