Uncertainty and Variability of Energy and Material Use by Fused Deposition Modeling Printers in Makerspaces

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Industrial Ecology, 2019, 23 (3), pp. 699 - 708
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© 2018 by Yale University Desktop-grade fused deposition modeling (FDM) printers are popular because of compact sizes and affordable prices. If we are moving toward a future where desktop FDM printers are in every school and office, like conventional printers, then these machines will consume a large amount of energy and material. However, it is very difficult to evaluate the environmental impacts of FDM printers since there are so many different brands and types of printers using different raw materials under different scenarios. This study uses data from two different printing sites to evaluate the scenario and parameter uncertainty and variability in energy and material balances for FDM printers. Data from the two makerspaces provide insight into the material and energy consumption data using polylactic acid and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) with four types of printers. The use of actual performance data allowed for the additional study of scrap ratio. Regressions provide insight into predictive factors for energy and material consumption. Monte Carlo simulations show the range of energy life cycle inventory values for the desktop-grade FDM printers. From the regressions, Type A Pro was the most energy-intensive machine. For material waste, an open-access makerspace using ABS was associated with higher scrap ratio. Regression analysis indicates that the rate of material usage is not a strong predictor of waste rates. The amount of waste generated across both sites indicates that more ubiquitous access to FDM printing may create a significant addition to the waste stream.
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