Carbon: A 3D Printing Ecosystem with a Focus on Sustainability

Keith Kirkwood, Senior Product Manager of Materials at Carbon, spoke to MANSUS at Formnext 2023 and explained how Carbon is innovating 3D printing sustainably by combining hardware, materials, and software.

The Five Pillars of Sustainability at Carbon

First off, Kirkwood outlined how Carbon addresses sustainability through five key pillars:

  1. Part Light Weighting: Utilizing lattices and design expertise, Carbon focuses on reducing material usage while maintaining functional integrity. This approach is evident in products produced by Adidas, which utilize EPU material with 40% bio-based raw materials.
  2. Reducing Mold Use: By printing directly, Carbon eliminates the need for molds in forming materials, further reducing waste.
  3. Minimizing Hazardous Waste: The company avoids solvent use and other common post-processing techniques that generate hazardous waste.
  4. Manufacturing Process Waste Reduction: Carbon is dedicated to reducing waste in its manufacturing processes.
  5. Bio-Based Raw Materials: Carbon incorporates bio-based materials in its products, like EP46 elastomer with 40% bio-based content and RPU 130 with over 20% bio-based materials.
Carbon Adidas 4D FWD Parley — one of the iconic 3D printed training shoes.

Emphasizing End-of-Life Considerations

Carbon not only focuses on sustainable material sourcing and part design but also considers the end-of-life of its products. “This includes exploring recycling options for materials like EPU and different chemical recycling routes for other resins.”We’re trying to address sustainability by reducing waste, light-weighting parts through different designs and topologies to reduce the amount of material used, as well as providing end-of-life considerations. If you’re using our EPU materials, we’re looking at different ways that you can recycle those,” explained Kirkwood.

Additionally, the company employs high-volume manufacturing techniques to reuse resin, minimizing waste through processes like resin reclaim.

The company views additive manufacturing as a solution to traditional manufacturing challenges, focusing on lean operations and enabling more efficient supply chains. “We’re focused on making sure our customers have what they need, where they need it,” Kirkwood continued. This approach reduces energy use, labor, and transportation costs, further contributing to sustainability.

Combining Aesthetic and Functional Freedom

Carbon’s technology offers a combination of aesthetic and functional freedom, enabling customers to tailor products in terms of look, feel, and softness, all while using increasingly sustainable and recyclable materials. The Carbon stand at Formnext showcased the diverse range of products, including bike saddles from three major brands, demonstrating the versatility of their printing technology.

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