Comparing environmental impacts of metal additive manufacturing to conventional manufacturing

Corrie van Sice, Jeremy Faludi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articleScientificpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
80 Downloads (Pure)


Metal additive manufacturing (AM) is revered for the design freedom it brings, but is it environmentally better or worse than conventional manufacturing? Since few direct comparisons are published, this study compared AM data from life-cycle assessment literature to conventional manufacturing data from the Granta EduPack database. The comparison included multiple printing technologies for steel, aluminum, and titanium. Results showed that metal AM had far higher CO2 footprints per kg of material processed than casting, extrusion, rolling, forging, and wire drawing, so it is usually a less sustainable choice than these. However, there were circumstances where it was a more sustainable choice, and there was significant overlap between these circumstances and aerospace industry use of metal AM. Notably, lightweight parts reducing embodied material impacts, and reducing use-phase impacts through fuel efficiency. Finally, one key finding was the irrelevance of comparing machining to AM per kg of material processed, since one is subtractive and the other is additive. Recommendations are given for future studies to use more relevant functional units to provide better comparisons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-680
Number of pages10
JournalProceedings of the Design Society
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Event23rd International Conference on Engineering Design, ICED 2021 - Gothenburg, Sweden
Duration: 16 Aug 202120 Aug 2021


  • Additive Manufacturing
  • Life Cycle Assessment
  • Lightweight design
  • Metal 3D-printing
  • Sustainability


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