3D Printing for Industry
“Additive manufacturing” (AM) describes the use of 3D printing to make functional components, including tools and end-use production parts. Unlike “subtractive manufacturing” processes such as machining, where parts are created by removing material, additive manufacturing builds geometries by “adding” feedstock such as filament, wire or powder.
Even though it is newer than other manufacturing processes, AM is arguably the broadest category of manufacturing we have. While it first gained traction for production in the aerospace and medical industries, AM is now being applied to an ever-expanding collection of end markets including automotive, dental, heavy equipment, oil and gas, rail, marine, and even consumer goods.
Compared to subtractive processes like milling, additive manufacturing generally provides greater geometric freedoms and utilizes less material. In contrast to forming processes such as injection molding or composites layup, 3D printing does not require a mold or other tooling to create a part.
Additive manufacturing has been shown to be a good option in production applications where long lead times or associated costs preclude the use of expensive tooling; complexity of geometry is advantageous; and/or low volumes are required, though the quantities appropriate for 3D printing continue to increase.