Building an additive manufacturing platform from a sustainable perspective

To design and further develop additive manufacturing processes for resource-efficient manufacturing of the electrical insulation components, several 3D printing technologies have been assessed during the NOVUM project. Methods such as material extrusion, material jetting, and sheet lamination have been judged in terms of their feasibility at the industrial scale as well as economic and environmental impacts, by also taking into account the circular economy considerations.

In general, the increased awareness of environmental aspects has led to the seek of more environmentally friendly printable materials to replace oil-based synthetic polymers in 3D printing. Hopefully, the cellulose-based materials developed in this project will promote the use of this renewable and abundant bio-based raw material for the manufacturing of electrical insulators as well as other complex-shaped components in various applications fields in the future.

In the circular economy, materials are used sparingly, and the generation of waste is avoided. One of the major advantages of 3D printing is that the process produces hardly any material loss. The sustainable perspective of 3D printing as a manufacturing method is highlighted even more when considering the on-demand and customer-oriented manufacturing capabilities. The creative utilization of 3D printing can increase the productivity and market competitiveness of traditional industry sectors, such as insulator manufacturing industry, while yielding to reduction in labour time, energy consumption and operational costs.

In the NOVUM project, 3DTech has concentrated on building a novel 3D printing platform capable of combining several different 3D printing processes and material formulations. The platform will enable rapid R&D solutions and is also upgradable from a desktop unit to industrial mass production purposes, including integration into the new NOVUM pilot line concept. Also, the 3D printing platform has multi-material printing capabilities, which enable printing of cellulose-based granulates as well as pastes into a single construct. So far, the processing technologies have been used in lab-scale, but as the project evolves, the same techniques will be demonstrated in the pilot-scale to produce electrical insulation components in a sustainable manner.

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