OSU Researchers Discuss Sustainability in Additive Manufacturing and New Sustainable Development Methodology


Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) have developed a new “sustainable development methodology” to help designers and engineers evaluate product and process sustainability factors during the design process.

We caught up with Karl R. Haapala, Ph.D., and graduate research assistant, Hari Nagarajan, from Oregon State University, to learn about sustainability in additive manufacturing in an exclusive AMazing® Q&A conversation. They are co-authors of the technical paper titled “Profile of Sustainability in Additive Manufacturing and Environmental Assessment of a Novel Stereolithography Process,” along with Yayue Pan, Ph.D., from the University of Illinois-Chicago, and Harsha Malshe, a graduate research assistant at Oregon State University.


AMazing®: Dr. Haapala and Mr. Nagarajan, thank you for your participation. Additive manufacturing is often considered a sustainable technology. What defines a sustainable technology?

Dr. Haapala: Businesses and consumers are looking for sustainable technologies as they make purchasing decisions today. A sustainable technology can be thought of as one that operates in a manner that is economically viable, environmentally responsible, and beneficial to society. Additive manufacturing is often put forward as a sustainable option over traditional manufacturing, since it can optimize material use and shorten supply chains. As a result, shortcomings of additive manufacturing technologies may be overlooked that otherwise would be evaluated in more critical sustainability decision making, for example when optimizing product, process, and system designs from multiple perspectives.

AMazing®: Generally, how does additive manufacturing compare to traditional manufacturing practices from a sustainability perspective?

Mr. Nagarajan: Additive manufacturing (AM) processes have the potential to be a vehicle to a more sustainable future. AM helps realize low-cost, high precision, tailored products, along with elimination of fixed assets associated with traditional manufacturing processes. Of course, current AM technology limitations inhibit us in fully realizing this potential.

Dr. HaapalaAnother challenge in comparing AM and traditional manufacturing practices from a sustainability perspective is the absence of standardized qualitative and quantitative metrics to evaluate industrial technologies. In fact, there are complex tradeoffs to be considered. For example, AM can reduce direct and indirect material wastes, enable flexible supply chains, and promote distributed manufacturing. However, these advantages can be product specific and may also come at the expense of increased energy consumption due to the energy intensity of producing, melting, and depositing materials in AM.

AMazing®: OSU recently announced the development of a “sustainable development methodology” incorporating unit process modeling and life-cycle inventory. Would you please share some notable highlights of the new methodology and how it differs from other approaches currently in use today? How applicable is the new methodology for additive technologies?

Dr. Haapala: The sustainable manufacturing assessment approach recently reported from work completed in my lab builds on related work over the past several decades to better understand environmental, economic, and social impacts of supply chain and manufacturing processes.

Currently, these analysis approaches are largely limited to the evaluation of environmental impacts of products from a manufacturing system perspective. Our work strives to encompass other sustainability-related performance measures, though manufacturing-specific social metrics are still deficient – mainly limited to injuries and illnesses, which are lagging indicators of social responsibility.

Mr. Nagarajan: Our work is also aimed at better understanding the impacts of manufacturing from a unit process level, which means we need to better connect information about the product design to how individual manufacturing processes are operating, for example how they are using energy and material resources and generating wastes. This general approach is applicable to AM processes, which we are currently exploring in collaboration with the OSU/DOE Industrial Assessment Center.

AMazing®: The methodology approach was illustrated in the announcement using three hypothetical “bevel gear” designs. What factors were considered during the sustainability analysis? How does the methodology help minimize personal value judgments when evaluating sustainability? (To read OSU’s press release titled “Methodology Could Lead to More Sustainable Manufacturing Systems” by David Stauth, OSU, press here.)

Image courtesy of OSU

Bevel gear CAD image (Image courtesy of Oregon State University)

Dr. Haapala: Development of the sustainability assessment methodology focused on methods to quantify performance metrics. These metrics are largely derived from energy use, material use, wastes/emissions, and process time, and help decision makers learn more about impacts to various resources, emissions, and costs. A variety of approaches have been suggested for accommodating personal value judgments in decision making, for example by using the Analytic Hierarchy Process. In our work, however, we compare each metric individually and have not presented an approach to apply value judgments. An extension of the current approach would make it easier to compare alternatives based on a set of metrics, or even use a single indicator. In my view, it will be important for future approaches to accommodate a variety of personal values to allow for robust decision making.

AMazing®: What sustainability-related benefits are manufacturers missing by not designing for optimal geometry, particularly as it applies to additive technologies?

Dr. Haapala: Additive manufacturing opens up the design space to enable the production of complex, shape optimized structures that can reliably meet product functional requirements. In addition, novel additive manufacturing process technologies will enable the use of non-homogeneous materials distribution within a product, further enhancing tailorability and functionality. If additive manufacturing companies do not take advantage of these capabilities, they run the risk of competing head-to-head with traditional manufacturers. Additive manufacturing companies, however, are able to create and realize innovative designs that are not achievable using traditional manufacturing.

Mr. Nagarajan: By optimizing geometries and tailoring materials, additive manufacturing companies may be able to leapfrog the sustainability performance achieved by traditional manufacturing, including dematerialization, reduced cost, reduced time to market, and custom-fit solutions.

AMazing®: Do you envision industry adopting a universally accepted methodology for additive manufacturing design?

Dr. Haapala: The process breakthroughs and rapid developments in additive technology are without doubt to be followed by breakthroughs in design methods. In fact, one of the technical barriers to the adoption of additive manufacturing technologies for finished part production is due to incomplete integration of homogenous and heterogeneous design with additive manufacturing. Development of a design methodology for unbounded design innovation under integrated additive manufacturing and conventional processing is an area I am exploring with collaborators in design engineering and industrial engineering.

AMazing®: Do you anticipate future research dedicated to the sustainability of new breakthroughs in additive manufacturing processes and design?

Dr. Haapala: Prospective developments in additive manufacturing process and design will heighten the need to investigate the sustainability performance of newly developed technologies to determine the best solutions. The concept of sustainability is open ended and requires diligent evaluation and advancement to set and achieve goals toward continuous improvement.

AMazing®: How can industry benefit from the sustainable methodology research being conducted at OSU?

Dr. Haapala: The sustainable assessment methodology was developed in close collaboration with industry, and the general approach offers tangible results that can direct engineers in making better decisions for design and manufacturing. Work supporting the development of a complementary software tool is to be reported in forthcoming publications. Engineers partnering in this work expressed how using the methodology changed their thinking during design for manufacturing activities, both to reduce costs, as well as resource use and wastes.

Mr. Nagarajan: This methodology allows industry decision makers to look at product design and manufacturing under a different lens. My graduate research is working to adapt the methods previously explored in our lab to assist sustainable additive manufacturing decision making. Initial results of the work have been submitted for peer-review in conference and journal papers.

This concludes our interview. Thank you very much Dr. Haapala and Mr. Nagarajan for your participation. We are very grateful for the opportunity to learn about the various aspects of sustainability in additive manufacturing and OSU’s new sustainable development methodology. 


AAM_OSU_KarlHaapalabout Karl R. Haapala, Ph.D.
Karl R. Haapala is an Associate Professor in the School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering at Oregon State University, where he directs the Industrial Sustainability Lab and serves as Assistant Director of the OSU Industrial Assessment Center. He received his B.S. (2001) and M.S. (2003) in Mechanical Engineering, and his Ph.D. (2008) in Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics as an NSF IGERT trainee, all from Michigan Technological University. His research addresses sustainable manufacturing challenges, including life cycle engineering methods, manufacturing process performance modeling, and sustainable engineering education. His work has appeared in more than 80 peer-reviewed proceedings and journal articles.

Dr. Haapala has participated in over $5M in research from the Army, DOE, NIST, NSF, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Oregon BEST, the Oregon Metals Initiative, and industry, including Boeing, Benchmade, Blount, Caterpillar, Master Chemical, PGE, and Sheldon Manufacturing. He has served in a variety of capacities within ASME, IIE, and SME, and has been inducted into the honor societies of Pi Tau Sigma, Phi Kappa Phi, and Sigma Xi. He has been recognized by the NAE (2015 Frontiers of Engineering) and SME (2014 Outstanding Young Manufacturing Engineer Award) and received Best Paper Awards from ASME (2015 DFMLC) and CIRP (2012 LCE).

AM_OSU_NagarajanHariAbout Hari Nagarajan
Hari Nagarajan is a Graduate Research Assistant in the School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing at Oregon State University and an Operations Manager in the OSU Energy Efficiency Center. He is concurrently working toward his M.S. in Industrial Engineering and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Advanced Manufacturing. His research is focused on the development of additive manufacturing process models and sustainability assessment, and has been funded by the DOE, NSF, the Oregon Metals Initiative, and Sheldon Manufacturing. Mr. Nagarajan received his B.S. (2014) in Production Engineering from Anna University in Chennai, India. He is member of ASME and SME.

About Oregon State University
Oregon State is a leading research university located in one of the safest, smartest, greenest small cities in the nation. Situated 90 miles south of Portland, and an hour from the Cascades or the Pacific Coast, Corvallis is the perfect home base for exploring Oregon’s natural wonders. As Oregon’s leading public research university, with $308.9 million in external funding in the 2014 fiscal year, Oregon State’s impact reaches across the state and beyond. With 11 colleges, 15 Agricultural Experiment Stations, 35 county Extension offices, the Hatfield Marine Sciences Center in Newport and OSU-Cascades in Bend, Oregon State has a presence in every one of Oregon’s 36 counties, with a statewide economic footprint of $2.232 billion.

Karl R. Haapala, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
School of Mechanical, Industrial, and Manufacturing Engineering
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331
E-mail: Karl.Haapala@oregonstate.edu

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