Intro To Additive Manufacturing

Introduction to Additive Manufacturing

3D Printing, otherwise known as additive manufacturing (AM), is one of the fastest-growing industries on the planet.  The rate of adoption has skyrocketed for the last decade and the opportunities are seemingly endless. Once considered the primary tool for designers to validate concepts and produce prototypes at a quicker pace, AM has turned into a viable and effective alternative to traditional manufacturing.  Thanks to the vast improvements in material capabilities, major companies in every industry imaginable are implementing additive manufacturing as a solution for short-run production, customization, and even high-performance parts used for medical devices, transportation, and aerospace applications.  The Introduction to Additive Manufacturing is a short collection of information and assets to help you determine how this transformational technology can benefit you and your organization.

Prototyping vs Production

Not long ago, only a handful of companies offered additive manufacturing equipment. There were very few material providers for these technologies, and the software for these printers were proprietary to those early equipment manufacturers. But what was once four major players within the industry in the early 2000’s has exploded to over 170 different companies dedicated to the advancement of additive manufacturing.

Complementary Technologies

It’s impossible to assume that one technology will solve all of your prototyping, design and production needs. This is challenging for those who wish to purchase equipment and bring the capability in-house. Therefore, it’s important to consider partnering with technology-agnostic organizations that have access to complementary machinery, such as service bureaus or universities. It’s cost effective and safe. According to a recent study, the number of companies using AM service providers has tripled since 2016.

Applications: What Makes The Most Sense For You

The additive industry is driven by material enhancements that enable engineers and designers to apply the technology​—​solving current and future problems. As mentioned in previous chapters within the ​AM Playbook​, it’s important to identify which type of printing process or selected material will make the most sense for your application. While prototyping currently remains the main utilization of additive manufacturing in many industries, companies are increasingly finding other use cases, such as tooling or production.​

Materials: The Pyramid of Performance

Materials are the lifeblood of additive manufacturing. Oftentimes referred to as consumables, the advancements in 3D printing materials have been extraordinary with no signs of slowing down. Material developments are driven by the demand for stronger and specific solutions that lead to new applications. Chemical resistant thermoplastics used for the oil & gas industry, high performance nylons used as a substitute for short-run production, and impossible to produce metal printed parts that are complex and perfect for end-use assemblies in aerospace​.

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