3D printing: A partnership for more sustainability
Promising prospects

A partnership for more sustainability

What do you do when you cannot make progress despite the best know-how and best technology? You rethink ideas – and work with partners to adopt new methods.

The idea of using a 3D printer to process something other than plastic industrially was a pipe dream for a long time. However, ZEISS made it a reality with its supplier Schunk Ingenieurkeramik. Schunk Ingenieurkeramik repurposed a 3D printer in such a way that it became able to process ceramic, which is one of the hardest and most heat-resistant materials there is. As a result, it can produce components that were previously impossible with ceramic due to their complexity and size. This is perfect for ZEISS, which requires structural components that are large and ceramic. How large? “As large as an adult person,” says Stefan Unger, who is in charge of Supply Chain Sustainability at ZEISS. There used to be a number of challenges with the conventional method for producing support structure components, which involved pressing silicon carbide powder into a block and subsequently milling it. A new idea was needed. “For us, ZEISS was the ideal partner to develop 3D printing further,” says Dr. Lars Schnetter, Managing Director of Schunk Ingenieurkeramik. Making ceramic components through 3D printing is more flexible, cost-effective and resource-friendly as well as less error-prone than conventional methods. “We were initially a bit skeptical if a supplier could even meet our demanding requirements with a printing process,” Stefan Unger reveals. Yet the patience and trust of both parties paid off in the end. Schunk Ingenieurkeramik and ZEISS have been driving technological innovation together since as far back as 2008, which means they have also been working on another issue at the same time: sustainability. “3D printing saves not only time, material and money, but also copious amounts of carbon dioxide,” says Stefan Unger. “This technology has major potential since it can be transferred to other fields. What’s more, this is just the start.”

  • 50 %

    less powder

    and 40% less energy across the entire process means 50% fewer carbon emissions

  • 500

    tonnes less CO2

    from Schunk in 2022 (approx.)

  • 20 %

    10 - 20% CO₂

    reduction in future carbon emissions from optimizing raw material production processes

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