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5 Ways Manufacturers Can Reduce Carbon Emissions

To ensure sustainability, manufacturers around the world must heed the call to drastically reduce carbon emissions by reducing energy consumption, using alternative energy production methods, decarbonizing processes, and using sustainable materials - among other things. Here are five ways manufacturers can do their part to reduce carbon emissions.

Xomety X
By Team Xometry
 5 min read
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Globally, climate change poses an existential threat not just to industries, but to whole societies, and even humankind itself. Since the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, carbon emissions have steadily climbed to unprecedented levels as a result of increased industrialization, manufacturing, and consumption. To ensure sustainability, manufacturers around the world must heed the call to drastically reduce carbon emissions by reducing energy consumption, using alternative energy production methods, decarbonizing processes, and using sustainable materials - among other things. Here are five ways manufacturers can do their part to reduce carbon emissions.

1. Perform Routine Maintenance on Equipment

The commonly heard phrase “reduce, reuse, and recycle” applies not just to the individual, but also to whole organizations. Oftentimes, manufacturers may lack an effective and efficient preventative maintenance schedule. Consequently, machinery and equipment may malfunction, require repair parts, or may wear out prematurely and need to be replaced entirely. This results in more carbon-emitting processes down the supply chain for the manufacture and transportation of new machinery and replacement parts. 

Manufacturers who maintain their machinery and equipment in tip-top shape position themselves for a business and carbon emissions reduction win. Reduced downtime and equipment expenses can improve efficiency and profits while avoiding carbon emissions created by inefficient processes and the manufacture of more replacement parts than would be needed with a quality maintenance program in place. 

2. Reduce Energy Consumption

The energy consumption of machines (some of which operate directly on fossil fuels) is a key contributor to carbon emissions. Manufacturers should consider reducing consumption to reduce emissions. Actions as simple as turning off lights in unoccupied rooms and facilities, turning off computers and machines when not in use, and installation of lights with motion sensors can make a difference. When manufacturers pay close attention to energy use in plants and office buildings, they can reduce ongoing expenses as well as reduce the demand for electricity production, which is commonly fulfilled by natural gas or coal-fired generating facilities. This not only reduces carbon emissions but also helps reduce a manufacturer’s expenses.

3. Use Alternative, Sustainable Materials

Substituting more environmentally friendly raw materials in place of traditional materials can be a good way for manufacturers to reduce carbon emissions. Of course, due care must be taken to find a close match to the important properties of the original materials (mechanical, thermal, chemical, etc.), but with a little effort, this can often be accomplished. For instance, manufacturers can opt to replace plastic straws with paper straws, or replace the plastic in a toothbrush with plant fibers. While it is perhaps easier to replace plastics with alternative materials (such as plant fibers or bio-friendly plastics), it can be a bit more difficult to replace metal parts. Instead, when it comes to metal products or assemblies, manufacturers can often combine the functions of multiple parts into one component, resulting in using less total material. This approach is described in more detail in the next section.

4. Utilize Multitasking Equipment and Machinery

Another way manufacturers can reduce carbon emissions is to reduce the number of materials and parts needed to achieve a specific function. This can be accomplished by using multitasking equipment in the manufacturing process or combining the functions of many parts into one in a finished product. For example, manufacturers can use a multifunction machine, such as a 5-axis CNC, to accomplish multiple, complex cuts in the same setup. This helps reduce cycle times and consequently, the power draw needed to produce a finished product, while also increasing a manufacturer’s efficiency and output.

5. Consolidate the Functions of Many Parts into One

Carbon emissions can also be reduced by consolidating the functions of multiple parts in an assembly into one part. This is made easier by additive manufacturing methods, which allow manufacturers to more easily combine component functions and reduce carbon emissions by using less material - in some cases consuming up to 70% less material than if the components were made and assembled. 

For example, pump impellers typically require several parts that are welded together to complete the final product. However, with additive manufacturing, the functions of several parts can be combined into one, resulting in less material used, less manufacturing time, and higher manufacturing throughput.

Advocate for a Greener World

As we move into the third decade of the 21st century, the world is starting to see the catastrophic effects of increased carbon emissions and climate change on ecosystems and communities as droughts, rising sea levels, and unprecedented weather disasters become more common. To mitigate the worst effects of climate change, manufacturers and industrial organizations must drastically rethink their processes to help preserve the Earth’s resources and protect life all around the world. Xometry is proud to be at the forefront of the fight against climate change, providing guidance and help to manufacturers replacing traditional methods with new, more sustainable ones, all around the world.

Xomety X
Team Xometry
This article was written by various Xometry contributors. Xometry is a leading resource on manufacturing with CNC machining, sheet metal fabrication, 3D printing, injection molding, urethane casting, and more.