Is Free-Form Injection Molding Sustainable?

Aug. 10, 2023
Using a digital workflow and 3D printing can lead to a lower carbon footprint as well as allow for more efficient and less costly spare parts manufacturing.

Glen Mason, manager of advanced innovation and industrialization at DeMarini, a division of Wilson Sporting Goods, and Lasse Staal, business development director of Nexa3D, spoke with Sharon Spielman, technical editor of Machine Design, about additive manufacturing for the sporting goods space. 

In this fourth of a five-part series, the discussion moves to sustainability. Mason notes that by using a digital workflow and 3D printing, designs can be created and tested with minimal material consumption, avoiding the need for expensive traditional tooling workflows. The digital workflow also allows for easy exploration of alternative materials, which promotes lower carbon footprints and better circularity.

READ MORE: ASME Honors Additive Manufacturing Innovation

Staal notes a third-party study by Deloitte shows that by replacing convention pilot tooling—which often requires shipping from overseas—with free-form injection molding, carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by 75%. More efficient iterations avoid the need for wasteful practices, leading to energy, materials and cost savings.

This technology also impacts spare parts manufacturing. In industries where on-demand batches of one are required for spare parts, it is important to have a manufacturing system that allows for consistent production in the same material and process as the original part. With free-from injection molding, spare parts can be made using the same material and process, extending the lifetime of products while reducing costs and risks.

There is a need to shift our mindsets and the industry needs to adopt greener practices. “The obstacle is the mindset, really, of the people involved. So, I think that's where I would like to see the most effort going into greening up our workflow here,” Mason says.

Also in This Series

  • Part 1: 3D Printing Growth in Sporting Goods
  • Part 2: Fail Fast & Fail Better
  • Part 3: Dissolving Molds: A New Way to Think About Injection Molding
  • Part 5: Building a Community of Injection Molding Users
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