Category Archives: sustainable manufacturing

Creating a More Sustainable World in 3D

Do you see your world in 3D…Where the dimensions of economy (profit), environment (planet), and society (people) are equally considered in the realization of your manufactured product? Traditional approaches to manufacturing have relied far too heavily on resource intensive processes that don’t always balance the needs of society with the profit goals of the enterprise or the environmental protection that is required for the earth to maintain a healthy and vibrant ecosystem.

Manufacturing enterprises have become substantially more resource efficient and operationally intelligent in the past Century. Compared to the way Additive Manufacturing and 3D printing can enable, there hasn’t been as dramatic an opportunity for industry to realize transformational shifts in resource utilization, since the invention of the steam engine.

Additive manufacturing (AM) takes advantage of various processes used to make three-dimensional objects in which successive layers of materials are laid down under computer control. The objects can be of almost any shape or geometry, and are produced from a 3D model or other electronic data source. AM technologies and processes are now used in a wide-range of industries and to design, engineer, and manufacture higher-performance products. AM technologies and approaches include stereolighography (SLA), selective laser sintering (SLS), and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS).

Recent advances in topology optimization can, when blended with AM, provide the means for producing a new generation of engineered parts and products. A few  years ago, AM and 3D printing were widely viewed as prototype-exclusive tools due to their relative high cost, limited material and finishing capabilities.

TOPOLOGY:  the way in which consistent parts are interrelated or arranged.

Today, AM and 3D printing tools and equipment can, when integrated with software for topology optimization, revolutionize the way in which products are designed, prototyped, and manufactured. AM and 3D printing provide unparalleled opportunities and freedom to product designers. AM and 3D printing are near a convergence point in assimilating a suite of software, materials, techniques, and finishing options that can springboard this novel technology into the forefront of sustainable product design and manufacturing.

As AM and 3D printing integrate science and technology into superior manufacturing capabilities, the only limiting factor will be our imagination. AM and 3D printing allow for the design, development, and manufacturing of more complex shapes and topographies which result in customized products at faster manufacturing cycle times.


The flexible design and production freedom of AM can enable sustainable design and manufacture of products. AM offers a new way to achieve competitive advantages in product design and manufacturing by addressing:

  • Design freedom – Due to the wide-ranging potential of AM technologies, design opportunities are limited only by one’s imagination. Traditional manufacturing methods play a large role in the range of options that can be achieved for product designers. In the old world of manufacturing, equipment and machines drove design and product realization based upon the capabilities of the manufacturing equipment. In contrast, the AM world liberates design and provides the means to manufacture parts that would never have been conceivable (at least cost-effectively) with traditional manufacturing methods.
  • Part optimization – AM can, when aligned with the right software, design tools, and material selections, allow designers to achieve optimum part design and performance according to characteristics and requirements that they establish. If a designer wants to optimize their part for materials utilization, production speed, or a variety of other factors related to topology, they can now do so. The latest capabilities of AM and 3D printing provide designers with tools and capabilities that can result in higher performance parts that use less material, energy, and natural resources to develop, manufacture, and use.
  • Materials availability and scarcity – As a manufacturing process, AM only uses the material(s) necessary to realize the part geometry, scale, and size specified by digital design files. Because AM processes grow a shape by depositing layer upon layer of material, this approach is significantly less material intensive than other manufacturing approaches. An example would be the design and development of an injection mold using AM (growing the injection mold with only the right amount of material necessary) versus traditional methods of CNC machining (extracting material from a large block).
  • Process and energy efficiency – When used as an integrated component of a “total manufacturing solution,” AM can be instrumental in reducing total energy consumption per part. For example, the potential of AM can allow for the development of custom injection molds/tools that more efficiently direct water or other forms of cooling to the mold, therefore reducing the time it takes to injection mold and cool a part. This achieves lower total energy for injection molders, and in addition, faster cycle times. AM can be a stand-alone manufacturing process/tool, or strategically included into a total manufacturing solution that helps manufacturers deliver high quality and performance products at every stage of the product life-cycle: design, prototype, tool making, production, and so on.
  • De-materialization of products –AM offers potential to redesign existing or new parts that perform the same or better function, and which use less material. AM parts can be designed to be lighter weight, stronger, and with greater utility than parts manufactured from other processes. As such, AM parts are becoming a preferred solution for the medical device, transportation, aerospace, and defense industries as an opportunity to integrate stronger, lighter, and longer-lasting parts into their products. These industries are attracted by many benefits of AM, however the option to dematerialize a part can have dramatic impact on total product weight, energy use, performance and longevity. For example, in the aerospace industry, companies like GE, Boeing, Airbus, and Lockheed Martin seek to reduce the weight of aircraft to achieve fuel savings, higher performance (faster aircraft), lower weight and more space. The result is a next generation of aircraft that can carry more people and cargo, longer distances, at faster speed, while using less fuel, materials, and resources.
  • Speed-to-market – With AM you can produce a part in hours, not the days or even weeks that may be required with other manufacturing methods. As a result, AM has become the process of choice for many design companies who want quick turn-around on precision prototypes at reasonable cost. In the consumer product sector, the life-cycle of many products is becoming shorter and shorter, in part because of ongoing advances in electronics and technology which make products obsolete in 18-to-24 month business cycles. As a result, many consumer product companies want a more flexible manufacturing opportunity, which balances speed-to-market with shorter-run manufacturing cycles. AM provides this kind of opportunity to cost-effectively bring new products to market quickly, and also enable a manufacturing volume that aligns with the fickleness of the marketplace.

AM delivers the means for designers, manufacturers, and society to visualize, advance, and accelerate the realization of manufactured products across three dimensions (people, planet, and profit). As shown in the visual, the opportunity and scale of sustainability potential and impacts is magnified as AM and 3D printing are used from the onset, and across the product development life-cycle.


Do you see your world in 3D


Ultimately, the use of AM results in competitive advantages related to operational efficiency (i.e., achieving lower cost of manufactured goods) and development of products that achieve a differentiated and sustainable product performance advantage (i.e., products that are stronger, faster, lighter, use less energy, use less materials, etc.). Finally, the unique capabilities of AM can support a circular economy, one which is restorative, less depletive, and leverages the elegant capabilities of AM to support or enable sustainable design, sustainable manufacturing, sustainable product realization, and product remanufacturing.

Smart Business, Sustainable Business- Eco-Economics at HARBEC

A vibrant economy is enabled by a healthy environment. Businesses and manufacturers in particular, can play a tremendous role to ensure the earth’s natural resources are not wasted, and that we do our part in conserving natural resources and protecting human health and the environment. With demand for natural resources intensifying, many businesses are working harder than ever to integrate principles of sustainability into all facets of their enterprise.

Far too often environmental stewardship is considered a “cost center” or expense to the business. This false perception can limit proactive environmental performance and the powerful impact business can have in protecting human health and the environment. Leading edge businesses have realized that their environmental and financial performance is not mutually exclusive. Business sustainability has been an evolving opportunity to gain top-and-bottom line growth by smartly integrating sustainability into the culture, strategy, and operations of the business. In fact, many businesses ranging from Unilever, LEGO, Adidas, and UPS have now realized that sustainability is not a catch-phrase, but an entirely unique strategy to design, manufacture, and deliver products that provide a sustainable benefit to society, solve complex environmental challenges, and also result in financial improvements that enable continued innovation and business growth.

In fact, according to The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US-SIF), the market for socially responsible investing exceeds $6.5 trillion in the U.S. alone. This is significant for public-and-private companies. Each of the past three years have seen increases in shareholder resolutions for publicly-traded companies, pushing them to improve their performance on specific environmental, social, and governance (ESG) activities. Investors, ranging from large institutional investors like mutual funds and colleges and universities, state retirement funds, and individuals, are asking more from business with regard to their ESG performance. Like the businesses they choose to invest in, investors want to minimize risk and maximize financial opportunity. Thus the investment community is looking for business to become more transparent and accountable to how they deal with their ESG performance.

Businesses that are choosing to “compete on sustainability” are realizing top line growth in revenue by being able to access new market opportunities and earn new customers based upon their ability to differentiate their business, brand, products, and performance. Those companies that also embrace “inside the fence” operational strategies for sustainable performance also benefit from significant bottom line financial results. By becoming more resource efficient, sustainable operations leaders can achieve higher productivity at lower costs and resource intensity than their peers. The net result: revenue growth and higher margins for their businesses.

This formula for financial success embraces pragmatic business strategy with operational excellence and a culture of continuous improvement. Sustainable business is smart business. It yields financial results, environmental performance, and ultimately, a more competitive, trusted, accountable business. More and more that formula, and its quotient (less risk and greater upside potential) is exactly what communities, customers, shareholders, suppliers, and others are looking for from their partners.

HARBEC has spent the past fifteen years working to demystify the symbiotic link between sustainable and financial performance. Years ago HARBEC learned that while the environmental story was important to its leadership and employees, others (financial institutions, suppliers, customers, and so on) wanted to know that financial performance was not compromised. In response to this need, HARBEC developed an internal Eco-Economic model for evaluating the costs and benefits of all technologies, equipment, and projects that relate to business objectives for achieving carbon neutrality. HARBEC’s Eco-Economic model is also a deliberate tool to ensure that the business always achieves financial value from its investments, so that goals for environmental, energy, social, and sustainable impact do not interfere with the ability of the business to achieve desired financial performance.

By incorporating Eco-Economic decision criteria into its purchase of energy efficiency measures HARBEC has been able to use “energy dollars” or those dollars which would have been spent on electricity (kWh) and gas (therms) from the utility toward high-value energy efficiency improvements. The result of this unique approach has been significant. HARBEC has been able to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs by offsetting what they would have paid for energy if they had not made Eco-Economic analytical choices on energy improvements.


Water Stewardship: An Untapped Industrial Opportunity

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), less than one percent of the total water on earth is fresh water available for human uses including drinking, transportation, heating and cooling, and industry. The balance of water is not readily available for human use because it is saline (ocean water), tied up in snow, ice, and glaciers, or in other mediums of storage such as water vapor.

There has been a lot of attention brought to water through the drought situation in California but the problem is worldwide. In February the Washington Post published an article: “A ‘megadrought’ will grip U.S. in the coming decades, NASA researchers say”. Scientific American  and National Geographic had similar articles.

Every manufactured product requires the use of water at some point of the production and delivery process. For example, some sources estimate that the production of one car requires the use of 39,000 gallons of water. In the U.S., industry uses more than 18.2 billion gallons of water per day. Industrial uses of water include fabricating, processing, washing, diluting, cooling, or transporting a product; incorporating water into a product; or for sanitation needs within manufacturing facilities. Some industry sectors are very water intensive including food, paper, chemicals, refined petroleum, and primary metal producers. But regardless of the end-use, or intensity of use, there is no question that water is a precious and valuable natural resource to industry.

In the U.S., industrial uses of water represent less than 8% of total water use. On a global scale, industrial use of water represents approximately 20% of total water use (70% of water is used in the agriculture sector globally). What’s interesting is that there is a very close relationship between industrial energy and water use. Understanding the ‘energy-water nexus’ is just one way industry can become more aware of its natural resource use, and discover solutions which can be implemented to achieve both energy and water related stewardship objectives.

The diagram below provides more insight into the energy-water nexus. The figure, prepared by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, illustrates the flows of energy consumed for Direct Water Services and Direct Steam Use in the Residential, Commercial, and Industrial (including Power) sectors. Ultimately, 58% of this primary energy is rejected as waste heat due to losses during electricity conversion and at end-use.


Water use trends summarized by USGS show that as population has increased so has our use of water. What’s promising however is that industrial uses of water have shown declines in recent years.  In every industrial sector, there are leading examples of how industry is working to curtail its use of water, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it makes eco-economic sense.

HARBEC, Inc. has committed to be a water neutral manufacturing facility and company by the end of 2015. HARBEC is continuously striving to enhance the efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness of its operations. Bob Bechtold, President of HARBEC, states, “We are seriously committed to sustainable manufacturing. Like energy, water represents a critical requirement and input into our manufacturing processes. Water is integral to the performance, quality, price, and longevity of every component we make. As such, we place a premium value on water. We also know that water and energy have a very close, symbiotic relationship, particularly in manufacturing environments. As we advance our accountability and stewardship of water, in turn we also further our energy efficiency goals.”

The HARBEC example of industrial leadership for water stewardship is far from unique. Between 2008 and 2012, toy manufacturer Hasbro reduced its water use at their owned and operated facilities by 31 percent. And, to extend their commitment and leadership, Hasbro announced that by the end of 2015 it will partner with its China-based supplier facilities to establish annual water conservation action plans. In another example, between 2000 and 2013 Ford Motor Company reduced water use per vehicle manufactured from one of their Mexico-based facilities by 58%. Companies like Hasbro, Ford, and HARBEC are not reducing water use only in response to the growing global issue of water scarcity. These industrial leaders are taking action on water accountability because it results in lower operating costs, product margin improvement, and more competitive and efficient operations. Unilever, for example, estimates that their reduction of water from manufacturing operations has achieved cumulative supply chain cost avoidance of €26 million since 2008.

In addition to eco-economic water stewardship opportunities “inside the fence,” some companies have chosen to combine their efforts and resources to advocate for water stewardship as business imperative. The efforts of the Blue Business Council in California, represented by companies including Patagonia, New Belgium Brewing, Klean Kanteen, Clif Energy Bars, New Resource Bank and others, is reflective of how business and industry understand that the economic opportunity of water resides in the stewardship of this precious resource.

Opportunities for water stewardship (economic, environmental, innovation and societal impacts) are limitless. Just as leading companies are hard at work to reduce and conserve their water resources, others are continually innovating new products which ensure our standards of water purity and cleanliness are always achieved. Companies such as Pall Corporation, Aquatech, Pentair, and many others are developing innovative products to serve the clean water requirements of industry.

In short, water stewardship is big business. The question is, how much of it has been YOUR business?

Community is More Than an Address

It is not enough to exist (have a physical address and place of business) in a community; rather it is essential to be an active, engaged, and a trusted ally within the community. At Harbec we take this to heart.   Since our humble beginning in our founder’s barn, Harbec has been a business that values hard work, persistence, the pursuit of excellence, innovation, and strong community. Harbec has succeeded by having strong values, ethics, and integrity which transcend every aspect of the work we do.   Our values for social responsibility are reflected in many ways. Harbec and its employees are very proud to have given back to the community in the following ways in 2014:

  • Food Drive – In November Harbec and its employees contributed more than 500 pounds of nonperishable food and frozen turkeys to a local shelter for women and children and the town food cupboard.


  • Blood Drive – More than 15 people participated in the annual American Red Cross blood drive which potentially saved almost 50 lives!


  • Gift Drive – Harbec employees contributed hundreds of new and gently used items in support of the Green Angels freecycle event, as well as  new gifts for 3 Harbec families and many items to benefit a local women’s shelter.


  • Community Education, Training, Awareness – In an average year, Harbec works with more than 30 local schools, universities, and organizations providing tours, guidance, mentoring and  support.  in 2014, we have furthered our commitment to technology education and exposed hundreds of students to our innovative and sustainable manufacturing solutions.


  • Commitment to Sustainable Manufacturing – Harbec continued its journey to reduce its operational impact on natural resources and the environment. In 2014 Harbec invested in and acquired new equipment, tools, and processes that will make its people, facilities, and operations more efficient, productive, and sustainable. Harbec’s investment to upgrade its Combined Heat and Power (CHP) physical plant will, for example, once completed in early 2015, lead to an even higher thermal efficiency factor, further reducing Harbec’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to the local community.

Whether it’s for our local community or for one of our global customers, in 2015 Harbec will continue to work hard to provide the best solutions, and with the highest integrity, quality, and performance.   See you in 2015!



Materials Selection and Management Solutions

The development and commercialization of sustainable products can be realized by integrating a framework of sustainability across the following high-level product development steps:

  • Customer Needs Assessment
  • Sustainable Product Design Principles
  • Materials Selection
  • Sustainable Manufacturing
  • Product Packaging
  • Product Use
  • End-of-Life Product Disposition

product stweardship

No two products are exactly the same. All of the steps noted are important to producing a high-quality product. The right selection and efficient management of materials is essential to providing custom engineered product solutions to customers. The materials used in the manufacturing process, and as embedded in the final physical form define the ultimate price, performance, quality, longevity, and sustainability of  a product.


Harbec works to provide solutions to customers to achieve sustainable product innovation and commercialization goals. For example, Harbec’s Sustainable Design Guide is a useful reference for understanding key principles of sustainable engineering to incorporate into the design of new products. In addition, as a manufacturer of custom tightly toleranced parts, Harbec differentiates itself by offering materials solutions to its customers. Harbec has developed an expertise of materials and internal controls and processes that support the wise and efficient use and management of materials.


As a result, Harbec’s materials solutions integrate intimate knowledge of materials with customer needs and goals across the entire materials value-chain: product design, materials selection, custom manufacturing, materials management, and product use-phase, end-use, and life-cycle considerations for managing product stewardship requirements.


Advancements in materials science research are contributing to the availability of new commercially available materials that provide unique properties. Increasingly, Harbec is being asked by customers about biopolymer options for injection molding, particularly as a means to support their goals for sustainable product innovation, and in advance of new product labeling requirements. As companies increase competition related to sustainable products, materials from bio-based origins, including biopolymers, are being looked to as possible solutions. In response, Harbec has updated its online Biopolymer Information Center as a resource to learn about the diverse range of options for molding biopolymers. The website also identifies a sample of the biopolymers Harbec has had experience molding for a diversity of customers and toward their specifications for high quality tightly toleranced parts.


This month Harbec has also launched its Biopolymer Partners Program. Through the Biopolymer Partners Program Harbec is working to connect the dots between sustainable design and manufacturing and materials development and management. Harbec is working with customers who are looking for unique bio-based polymer solutions which can enable their products to reduce or eliminate petroleum-and-carbon based feedstocks within their product portfolio. Harbec is also working with a diversity of biopolymer and bio-origin polymer companies to sample, validate, and assess the vitality of their material within the production parameters and tolerances demanded by customers.


To round out its total solutions offering for customers choosing to design, prototype, and manufacture sustainable products, Harbec offers carbon-neutrality at no additional cost. Since 2013 Harbec has been a carbon-neutral manufacturing facility. Harbec’s investment in operational excellence, adoption and certification of  ISO 50001/SEP, on-site renewable and combined heat and power (CHP) energy solutions, and integration of sustainable manufacturing tools, systems, and processes allows us to be a high-value partner for the manufacture of sustainable products.


clean room molding

Clean, Green, and Lean: Medical Device Component Manufacturing at Harbec

The medical device industry designs, develops and uses the most advanced technology and novel materials available. The industry represents a diversity of market segments which have very high standards for quality and precision products including orthopedics, surgical instruments, diagnostic apparatus, cardiovascular devices, dental instruments, blood transfusion and IV equipment, spinal devices, among others. As a result, the manufacturing capabilities required to produce innovative medical devices must also be world-class.

Harbec has made and continues to make, significant investments to earn the right to be a preferred medical device manufacturer for some of the world’s leading medical device companies. Harbec’s investment in state-of-the-art CNC milling machines, production-capable 3D printing, and cleanroom molding have provided medical device customers with the speed, accuracy, quality, and tolerance they need to produce high-value medical products.

Whether it is a 3D model, a precision cut mold out of aluminum or steel, tiny titanium parts milled at incredibly tight tolerances, or mid-to-high volume injection molded parts from a cleanroom environment, Harbec has a solution for your need.

In the past six months Harbec has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in new equipment, process improvements, and production capability upgrades to remain at the leading-edge of performance, quality, speed, and efficiency in medical device component manufacturing.  These solutions enable Harbec to rapidly evaluate and integrate a range of manufacturing opportunities including materials and equipment which can help its medical device customers differentiate their products in the marketplace.


Medical device manufacturing has very strict requirements for production cleanliness, product quality, packaging, and labeling. Harbec maintains stringent quality standards and practices so that it continuously earns the trust of some of the most discerning medical device customers.  To further strengthen our commitment to operational excellence and continuous improvement, Harbec is actively pursuing ISO 13485 certification. The use of management systems is, in the experience of Harbec, critical to maintaining quality, performance, and competitiveness. Harbec has certifications for ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and ISO 50,001/SEP. Harbec’s commitment to quality, environmental, and energy also drives manufacturing operations to provide a long-term sustainable value to customers.

In 2013 Harbec became a carbon-neutral company. This was accomplished through perseverance, innovation, and with a focus on continuous improvement. It is this commitment to excellence that Harbec brings to medical device component manufacturing. Contact Harbec to learn more about their solutions for medical device manufacturing. Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly newsletter for more “Solutions!” 

Doing the right thing, every day

“Sustainable Manufacturing is defined as the creation of manufactured products that use processes which minimize negative environmental impacts, conserve energy and natural resources, are safe for employees, communities, and consumers and are economically sound.”

–         US Department of Commerce

Harbec is seriously committed to sustainable manufacturing. We regard eco-economic sustainability as absolutely critical to the future of our business, and we believe that our success in the pursuit of it will improve our competitive advantage by insuring our efficiency. For the past fifteen years we have been on a journey to identify, prioritize, implement, and validate eco-economic opportunities to minimize the environmental impact of our manufacturing operations while increasing the impact and value we provide our employees, customers, and community. Here is a brief timeline of our accomplishments:


During the past 15-years we have accomplished a great deal, however we always seek to do more.  With an unwavering commitment to continuous improvement, we strive to achieve environmental excellence in all that we do. Many years ago Harbec became ISO 14001 certified as part of our journey and recognition that being accountable to, and managing our environmental impacts made business sense. We recently expanded our commitment to understanding, measuring, and managing our impact, particularly with regard to our energy use. Harbec is now ISO 50001/SEP (Platinum) certified, an achievement that we are very proud of and which can be read about in this case study by our certification partner, DEKRA.

While taking action on our energy and environmental footprint and impacts result in tangible eco-economic value to our business, Harbec could not have achieved our results without a strong policy to guide our efforts. Harbec’s energy and environmental policies include:


By enacting an environmental and energy policy coupled with a disciplined pursuit of continuous improvement, we’ve been able to set ambitious goals, such as being a Carbon Neutral manufacturing company. In 2013 we achieved that goal. We also reaffirmed our commitment to energy and environmental excellence by signing on as a U.S. Department of Energy Better Buildings Better Plants Challenge Partner with the goal of achieving a 25% reduction in energy intensity by 2020. But our efforts have not stopped there. To achieve our goals we know that we have to innovate and be responsive to the marketplace. We are working to integrate two significant technology trends, as noted by Forbes Magazine, into a leading edge opportunity to create high value carbon conscious components by leveraging nature inspired design with the incredible potential of 3D additive manufacturing. In fact we recently announced a partnership with NYSERDA to Demonstrate the Transformative Potential of Energy-Efficient 3D Printing.

Our business philosophy is based on being an environmentally responsible company which provides sustainable manufacturing solutions to our customers and a rewarding workplace for our employees. We seek to inspire and enrich the growth and development for each individual employee and the company as a whole.  Our founder, Bob Bechtold, leads by example and shows others how the value of Eco-Economics can be a long-term business solution. To that end, our external focus to environmental awareness and education is another example of our commitment to sustainability. Examples include:

  • We actively participate in conferences and events where its knowledge of Carbon Neutral and Sustainable Manufacturing can be shared among peers. For example, Harbec will be a featured speaker at the Sustainable Manufacturing Conference in May 2014.
  • We regularly provides tours of its facility for K-12 students, college and university students and researchers, other manufacturers, government officials, entrepreneurs, and others. Tours include detailed orientation and description (as well as hands on visualization) of Harbec’s energy improvements, innovations, facilities and infrastructure.
  • We provide contributions to trade associations, trade journals and magazines, and other high visibility and niche publications which extends the transfer of technology and sharing of knowledge on sustainable manufacturing and potential for manufacturers to achieve carbon neutrality.
  • In the past month Harbec participated in the Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC) “Mission Green”. The RMSC event was an all age’s family fun event which provided practical hands-on exhibits and information to help make the world more green and safe. Harbec participated alongside one of our customers, KidWind, a designer and maker of renewable energy education curriculum, workshops, and hands-on experimentation tools and kits.

We believe that taking care of the environment is everyone’s responsibility. With the right balance of policy, management systems, technology, and commitment, business can be a force for social, economic, and environmental good. Thank you to all of the employees, customers, and partners that have and continue to believe in Harbec’s endless pursuit of eco-economic excellence. Happy Earth Day!