What is Additive Manufacturing?

kristiel3D Printing

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Additive Manufacturing (AM) is being applied to a wide range of industries, such as the automotive industry, the medical field and even aerospace manufacturing. The name is very appropriate, since Additive Manufacturing is described as any technology that builds a 3D object by adding layer-upon-layer of material. This material can range from plastic, metal, concrete and perhaps one day even human tissue.

Requirements for Additive Manufacturing

AM technologies often require the use of a computer, 3D modeling software (particular for Computer Aided Design or CAD), machinery to construct the object, and the layering material responsible for the object’s composition. Take a look at the chart below to see how these elements come together to form basic Additive Manufacturing.

Additive Manufacturing Chart

Examples of Additive Manufacturing

The application of AM is limitless. One of the most common examples of AM is 3D Printing. Additive Manufacturing is often referred to as 3D Printing, but it actually refers to the production technique that can be utilized by many different materials. 3D Printing, on the other hand, is limited by its fabrication process and material. Most 3D printers today use Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) or Stereolithography (SLA) technology.  XYZprinting’s da Vinci 2.0 is an FFF 3D printer that uses thermoplastic material to form objects, while SLA employs laser technology to cure photopolymer resin. Both of these procedures illustrate the basic process behind Additive Manufacturing. Companies like XYZprinting and Autodesk are slated to release their SLA printers later this year.

This technology is neat, but why is it so important for manufacturing? Additive Manufacturing benefits every industry in terms of efficiency, cost effectiveness, design freedom and overall convenience. Without the need to build a mold or employ dies, AM allows companies to make parts and prototypes on demand. This quick production time also decreases costs since there is no need for a mold and any design changes can be implemented right away. Additive Manufacturing also opens up design possibilities, since the constraints of tooling and machining are eliminated. All of the challenges presented by design and production can be met in-house and on a single company’s production schedule. This all adds up to offering customers and professionals the ability to create, customize and/or repair products, while simultaneously redefining current production technology.

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