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Manufacturing is a rapidly changing field and as new technologies emerge and grow in intelligence, the options are constantly expanding and developing. 3D printing for example is no longer a figment of the future but a reality that’s changing the way manufacturers work today. Even within the realm of 3D printing, technology is consistently progressing, and new methods are coming to the fore all the time. One of these new methods is called “additive manufacturing”. You may have wondered what is additive manufacturing for some time now.

What is Additive Manufacturing?

Basically, it’s the umbrella term for the process of 3D printing that many of us are familiar with today. The terminology gained popularity in the 2000s and brought to light the idea of materials being added together in several different ways to form a new object. It works in the opposite way to subtractive manufacturing which, as you can likely logically conclude, is the machining process of removing materials. While the terms are linked, 3D printing often refers to polymer technologies while additive manufacturing is more commonly used in the context of metalwork and end-use part production.

Within the process of additive manufacturing, layers of the material are built up one at a time and fused together with a component like a heated printhead or laser to glue the layers together. The resulting product is a 3D-printed object.

Dipping Your Toe in the Sea of 3D Printing

Now if you’re a manufacturer looking to venture into the modern world of 3D printing, the potential options might feel overwhelming. There are many different additive manufacturing technologies available, and you need to choose one that will be suitable for your particular needs. With that in mind, let’s delve into some of the most often used techniques when it comes to additive manufacturing.

The Possibilities Are Endless

  1. Vat polymerization. This is one of the most common and popular additive manufacturing technologies that create 3D objects. It makes use of a handbasket filled with liquid photopolymer resin which is also used to construct a published item subcaste by subcaste. Once these layers have been published, ultraviolet light is also used and flashed onto the object which has a curing and hardening effect on the layers of resin. This method of printing could have the potential to be used in the field of medicine, even being referred to as “a gamechanger for medical testing devices.”
  2. Sheet lamination. This method of additive manufacturing is the preferred method of developing prototypes rapidly, joining thin sheets of material together to create an object. If there are objects that require complex shapes and geometries, this is where this method excels in being able to build durable objects with complicated designs. In some cases, sheets of paper can be layered and bonded together with a bonding adhesive. When layers of metal are used to create metal parts, high-frequency vibratory energy is used to join these sheets together.
  3. Material extrusion. When you think of 3D printing, this might be the image that more readily comes to mind. A persistent filament of thermoplastic or composite material is pushed through a warmed spout and kept layer by layer to make a 3D item. This is a large, important aspect in the field of 3D printing and is applied in several different areas, from commercial and retail sectors to hobbyists and aerospace. The heated material is a liquid when being used to form the object and then, as the layers cool, they harden and solidify to form the 3D object. These layers can be visible once the object has been made so often a post-processing procedure is involved to remove these lines and create a smooth, clean surface.
  4. Directed energy deposition. Another form of additive manufacturing is directed energy deposition or DED. This utilizes a heat source, like that of an electron beam, plasma arc, or laser, to melt metal a metal material, either wire or powder, and place it where it is needed. It is most often used to repair objects or add additional features to an existing object.
  5. Binder jetting. Binder jetting, commonly referred to as “drop-on-power printing”, uses a digital 3D CAD file and works with a wide range of materials including sand, plastics and even ceramics. The material for the object is supplied to the print bed and once this has been done, the print head binds the material together in accordance with the data within the 3D CAD file.

These are just a few of the many existing additive manufacturing techniques available today!

How to Make the Best Decisions

So, with so many options to choose from, how will you find an additive manufacturing type that suits you and your business? This is something only you can know. You need to take all the information you can in regard to your business’s current manufacturing techniques and needs and look for areas that need improvement. With these areas in mind, you can identify a more advanced technique that will solve the problems and speed up the processes that you deal with now. With the right information from your supply chain, team members and consumers, you will be able to find a solution that suits you. The powerful tool of 3D printing is becoming an asset to many as it enables you to prototype and produces parts with a high level of accuracy and exceptional mechanical properties. It empowers a creative team to see their inventive dreams come to life with the ability to design, develop and manufacture products with great accuracy and durability. If you want to bring a high level of performance and precision to your workforce, 3D printing is worth looking into. You can accelerate your product development, hit targets, and boost your sales. Look for an option that will give you the financial benefits you need to navigate the economic storms of today and give you the power to create unique prototypes to the advantage of your buyers.