Additive Manufacturing is the latest thing everyone’s talking about, so just what is it that’s got everyone buzzing?
Simply put, it’s 3D Printing for people who want a more formal name than 3D Printing.
Additive manufacturing (AM)—the process of making a product layer by layer instead of using traditional molding or subtractive methods—has become one of the most revolutionary technology applications in manufacturing. Often referred to as 3-D printing, the best-known forms of AM today depend on the material: SLS (selective laser sintering), SLA (stereolithography), and FDM (fused deposition modeling) in plastics, and DMLS (direct metal laser sintering) and LMD (laser metal deposition) in metals. Once employed purely for prototyping, AM is now increasingly used for spare parts, small series production, and tooling. For manufacturing with metals, the ability to use existing materials such as steel, aluminum, or superalloys such as Inconel has significantly eased the process of adopting AM.
Meanwhile, the number of materials that AM can handle is constantly expanding. A wide range of new plastics has been developed, along with processes and machines for printing with ceramics, glass, paper, wood, cement, graphene, and even living cells. Applications are now available in industries ranging from aerospace to automobiles, from consumer goods (including food) to health care.