Poised at a unique moment of “can” vs. “should”: reckoning EHS challenges and opportunities in the future of additive manufacturing

Organizers: Thomas A. McKeag, UC Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry; Justin Bours, Cradle2Cradle; Jeremy Faludi, Technical University of Delft

The industrial sector of additive manufacturing (AM) has experienced double-digit growth over the last decade, as the volume and type of material produced using the seven recognized types of 3D printing has expanded. Initially used mainly for prototyping and specialty production, the growth in the field is now dominated by parts manufacture, an exploration of novel materials, and an expansion of user types, including home use. While this disruptive technology has enabled the saving of energy and materials in some applications, as well as the relatively cheap production of complex shapes, current practices also prompt caution. Many of the chemicals used in AM are of concern; for example, typical Stereolithography (SLA) resin chemicals may cause skin and eye irritation, skin sensitivity, and aquatic toxicity. As such they also represent a potential cost to businesses such as hazardous waste disposal charges. They also represent a potentially higher cost in liability and loss of consumer goodwill. The potential for sustainability gains from AM should not be precluded by material toxicity, environmental persistence, and the failure of safety controls as the market widens to home use. Currently there are relatively no universally accepted material safety standards for AM process types, although committees associated with ISO and ASTM are preparing drafts standards on the subject. Clearly, the design of safer formulations and processes in AM will yield significant health benefits and cost savings as this sector continues to expand. It may also yield more innovations in materials manufacturing, reuse and recycling.

This symposium will bring together experts in the areas of:
• 3D printing technology
• materials innovation
• green chemistry
• life cycle analysis
• systems thinking
• alternatives assessment

The presentations and discussions will highlight current and emerging trends in AM, selectively target several of the current challenges or barriers to safer AM, and discuss ways that cooperative trans-disciplinary efforts might advance the field of green additive manufacturing. In particular, we will tie green chemistry principles to the challenges and opportunities of this field and how practitioners can play a part in making AM safer and more sustainable.