Sustainably Manufacturing Your Spares with 3D Printing

Point of view | 4 May 2019 | Last Updated: 06 August 2021

Green initiatives for companies are commonly viewed as a necessary additional cost to protect the environment and ensure environmental sustainability.

At Spare Parts 3D, we develop 3D printing as a sustainable manufacturing technology that mutually benefits both the business and the environment. We believe that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is crucial, and that is why we aim to create a sustainable business together with our clients through 3D printing innovations of spare parts.

Avoid waste of materials or resources

One of the first things with which people associate sustainability would definitely be waste of resources. Spare Parts 3D leverages 3D printing to digitalize inventory of spare parts to minimize the amount of waste.

From subtractive to additive manufacturing

Traditional manufacturing processes are mainly subtractive, meaning that they trim off or remove the unnecessary portion of raw materials to form the final products, leaving some of the removed materials unusable. 

On the other hand, 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is considered the more sustainable manufacturing process since it only deposits or adds the necessary materials layer by layer to make an object. No molds or waste are craved away and therefore the amount of wasted material is minimized.

From physical to digital inventory

a laptop showing digipart,

To avoid having excess stock level, spare parts managers must optimize the level of spare part inventory; however, managing the inventory of spare parts can be quite challenging due to its unpredictability.

The unpredictability of demand for spare parts stems from the lack of a seasonality or trends for spare parts managers to analyze. As a result, many still hold the mindset of holding on to as many spares as possible in case they might need it someday and storing them doesn’t seem to cost anything. Unused spare parts will then be discarded and this is certainly not socially responsible.

Furthermore, having a physical inventory incurs numerous costs, such as premium for insurance, which is calculated based on total inventory value, wages and utilities for maintenance. These administrative costs add up to approximately 20% or more, resulting in an overall net loss if a spare is not consumed or sold quickly and this is often the case. By experience, up to 30% of spare parts are disposed annually from lack of use and mounting warehousing costs.

With its 3D printing solution, SP3D provides the ideal solution by printing spare parts on demand, creating zero wastage in terms of both producing redundant spares and energy spent on warehousing. When fully adopted, 3D printing will turn physical inventories into digital ones, benefiting business owners and the environment.

Lengthening the Product Lifetime

Optimizing the energy efficiency of manufacturing home appliances is a well-known challenge for manufacturers. However, lengthening the lifetime of home appliances contributes to the same goal but is not as strongly emphasized as improving energy efficiency.

The keys to lengthening product lifespan are a robust manufacturing process to produce quality parts and the ease of reparability. Home appliances should be repairable in most circumstances with the right parts and know-how. Attention has to be paid to reparability right from the design concept stage so that any repair can be simple with accessible parts and streamlined processes.

RREUSE, a European umbrella organization for social enterprises, pointed out that the primary obstacles to repairing home appliances are the lack of access to spare parts and the cost of spare parts. Traditional plastic manufacturing processes, such as injection moulding, is widely used worldwide but highly ineffective when it comes to producing small production batches. As such, it is often uneconomical for plastic manufacturers to supply old and long tail spare parts for after-sales service.

Spare Parts 3D offers a sustainable solution to this issue as 3D printing is energy-efficient for small or even single-item batches, with no massive tooling needed. Obsolete parts can also be reverse engineered according to demand with no disparity in quality or functionality, providing a cheaper and greener solution to prolong a product’s lifetime.

Optimising Supply Chain, Reducing Carbon Footprint

For a corporation to be socially responsible, it must pay attention to emission of greenhouse gases. At Spare Parts 3D, we are able to use one specific 3D printing method known as Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM). It is a very energy-efficient method, easily competing with injection moulding, especially when it comes to low-volume production.

The most significant advantage Spare Parts 3D provides is in reducing carbon footprint by radically cutting the supply chain, making it a sustainable manufacturing process.

One additional advantage of producing on-demand as mentioned earlier is eliminating the need for remote warehouses. The main differentiating factor is transportation. The current injection moulding manufacturing model implies a fragmented supply chain made of several decentralized facilities, each one involving different aspects of production, storage and distribution. Each of these stages, as illustrated below, consumes fuel and emits greenhouse gas.

At Spare Parts 3D, the process with a supply chain supported by Additive Manufacturing is strictly limited to the last mile delivery.

Comparing the two models of supply chains, with the EcoLabel Index, the carbon footprint of a spare part produced through traditional supply chain amounts to approximately 138.22 tons of CO2 while a spare part produced through additive manufacturing supply chain amounts to only 27.22 tons of CO2.

This comes up to more than 5 times reduction in carbon footprint.

With its global network of 60 qualified 3D printing partners, SP3D is able to ensure that production is done in the closest proximity to the end user to ensure sustainability. Furthermore, this manufacturing model also creates social benefits by boosting local employment and stimulating the local economy in the countries where we 3D print spare parts.

Spare Parts 3D offers a solution to simplify spare parts management at lower cost, and this solution has a positive impact on both the environment and our clients.

We are proud to deliver services in a profitable, economical and sustainable manner, doing our part to create a greener tomorrow and a sustainable future.