Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a process used to create a physical (or 3D) object by layering materials one by one based on a digital model. Unlike subtractive manufacturing that creates its final product by cutting away from a block of material, additive manufacture adds parts to form its final product.
Types of additive manufacturing
Additive manufacturing can encompass multiple processes, depending on the hardware, material requirements, and product application.
A vat of photopolymer liquid is cured by focused UV light that builds parts layer by layer for a high-detail surface finish.
A power substrate is hardened when the printing head deposits a drop of binding fluid in a layering process. Includes full-color prototype fabrication.
Primarily used where surface finished and form testing are needed; a printhead lays down successively solidifying layers of UV curable material to form prototyped designs.
Fused deposition modeling is a common 3D printing process in which a heated nozzle extrudes a plasticized material to form products from a sliced CAD model.
POWDER BED FUSION
Laser or electron beams rapidly fuse layered powder material, such as various metals, together. Used for circuits, structures, and parts.
Ribbons of metal or paper are bonded through ultrasonic welding or adhesive, respectively; the finished shaping is completed through further material removal processes.
DIRECTED ENERGY DEPOSITION
Repairs or adds to existing components by using a multi-axis nozzle to extrude laser-melted material, commonly metal powders, onto the printing surface.
Using generative design and simulation software to produce complex metal parts helps manufacturers get more value from proven metal casting processes.
How is additive manufacturing used today?
One of the earliest ways to use additive manufacturing for industrial purposes, this practice is now becoming an industry standard. CAD-to-additive simulation technology is improving exponentially.
CUSTOM TAILORED COMPONENTS
Additive engineering provides the flexibility that manufacturers need to deliver custom solutions to clients quickly.
Prototyping is the original use of additive manufacturing. Though it is still widely used for that purpose, many companies succeed in delivering reliable 3D-printed finished goods.
The additive manufacturing ecosystem
Additive fabrication would not be possible without the high-caliber software required to prepare CAD geometry for printing.
Autodesk has partnerships and integrations with dozens of leading hardware manufactures.
Materials science is at the forefront of the industry, providing novel ways to work with everything from existing plastics to futuristic alloys.
UNDER ARMOUR LAUNCHES 3D-PRINTED HIGH-PERFORMANCE TRAINING SHOE
Additive manufacturing has evolved rapidly in recent years. It has been embraced by major industrial companies looking for ways to improve their products. The ability to deliver near-instant parts production and fully custom designs that cannot be replicated with other manufacturing techniques has accelerated investment and research in additive engineering.
Examples of additive fabrication trends
With metal additive manufacturing, materials are expensive and lead times are compressed. Consultants, innovation labs, and researchers are turning to process simulation to minimize 3D printing failures.
Robots are capable of incredible manufacturing feats, and their use in various fields is advancing rapidly—such as programmable multi-axis capabilities combined with computer vision research to build bridges.