Additive manufacturing software

Additive manufacturing is changing the way products are designed and created. Learn more about additive manufacturing software from Autodesk.


What is additive manufacturing?

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 which creates its final product by cutting away from a block of material, additive manufacturing adds parts to form its final product.

Additive manufacturing software supports and optimizes the process of additive manufacturing. It plays a critical role in various steps of 3D printing workflows, from design and modeling to planning, slicing, and machine control.


How is additive manufacturing used?

Additive manufacturing is primarily used by engineers, architects, and construction managers, and has replaced manual drafting.

Manufacturing software helps users create designs in three dimensions to visualize construction and enables the development, modification, and optimization of the design process. This process helps engineers make more accurate representations and modify them more easily to improve design quality.


Additive manufacturing trends

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.

Additive manufacturing works well with generative design because it offers a flexible, efficient means of producing multiple iterations of a 3D model for a cost-effective final product.

Benefits of additive manufacturing

Learn about some of the top benefits of additive manufacturing software from Autodesk.

Lightweight components

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, helping accelerate the production of lightweight components.

Custom-tailored components

The capability to customize and tailor products helps manufacturers quickly create and deliver custom solutions to clients using additive manufacturing software.

On-demand production

While prototyping is the original use of additive manufacturing, many companies are now delivering reliable 3D-printed finished goods in both commercial and industrial applications.

Additive manufacturing software features

Discover top additive manufacturing tools and features available with Autodesk software.

3D modeling and design

Software tools allow users to create or import 3D models of objects to be 3D printed. 3D modeling tools include features for precise geometry editing, parametric design, and support structure generation.


Machine control

Additive manufacturing software provides control interfaces for operating 3D printers, monitoring the print progress, adjusting parameters in real time, and identifying issues that may arise during the printing process.


Material management

Additive manufacturing software provides control interfaces for operating 3D printers, monitoring the print progress, adjusting parameters in real time, and identifying issues that may arise during the printing process.



Once 3D printing is complete, some additive manufacturing software provides recommendations for post-processing, including removing support structures, painting, sanding, or applying other finishing techniques.


Types of additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing can encompass multiple processes, depending on the hardware, material requirements, and product application.

Vat photopolymerization

Vat photopolymerization

A vat of photopolymer liquid is cured by focused UV light that builds parts layer by layer for a high-detail surface finish.

Binder jetting

Binder jetting

A powder substrate is hardened when the printing head deposits a drop of binding fluid in a layering process. Includes full-color prototype fabrication.



Material jetting

Used where surface finish and form testing are needed; a printhead lays down successively solidifying layers of UV curable material to form prototyped designs.



Material extrusion

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. This technique is used for circuits, structures, and parts.


Sheet lamination

Sheet lamination

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.



Metal casting

Using generative design and simulation software to produce complex metal parts helps manufacturers get more value from proven metal casting processes.

Cloud-based 3D CAD/CAM/CAE software for product design

Gain access to metal additive manufacturing functionality

Additive manufacturing and design software—available as Premium, Ultimate and Local Simulation

Examples of additive manufacturing software

Discover how our customers are using Autodesk additive manufacturing software in their projects.

Additive manufacturing on demand


Additive manufacturing on demand

The Rotterdam Additive Manufacturing Lab (RAMLAB) is pioneering the use of additive manufacturing on demand for Europe's larget port.


Additive manufacturing for automotive parts

General motors

Additive manufacturing for automotive parts

General Motors is transforming car design with additive manufacturing and generative design by creating lighter, more efficient automotive parts.


Additive manufacturing for industrial tooling


Additive manufacturing for industrial tooling

Gramm, an additive manufacturing startup is unlocking the potential of 3D printing by printing metal tools that would have traditionally been manually crafted.


Additive manufacturing for tool design

Stanley Black & Decker

Additive manufacturing for tool design

Black & Decker used generative design and additive manufacturing technologies to take a new approach to improve tool design.


Additive manufacturing resources

Learn more about additive manufacturing with these helpful resources from Autodesk.

Learn how Autodesk Fusion 360 makes 3D printing easy by providing an integrated CAD/CAM environment, an additive manufacturing extension, helpful apps, and more.


Learn how the team at Autodesk collaborates with industry partners to explore, identify, and experiment with new applications and opportunities in the additive manufacturing space.


3D printing and additive manufacturing may be synonymous terms at the surface level, but as the industry grows, additive manufacturing is more of an all-enveloping term, while 3D printing describes a smaller part of the process.


Optimize the performance of metal parts during the additive manufacturing process to minimize failures and maximize your additive manufacturing output.



These tutorials and classes from Autodesk University will familiarize you with additive manufacturing in Autodesk Fusion 360.


Learn about the general design practices that apply to all types of additive manufacturing, including metal (SLM) and polymer materials.


Additive manufacturing frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Learn more about additive manufacturing software with these top questions frequently asked by users.

How does additive manufacturing software contribute to sustainability?

Additive manufacturing offers a number of eco-friendly and sustainability benefits, including opportunities to minimize waste, optimize designs, reduce energy consumption, and enable sustainable production practices.

What is additive manufacturing used for?

Additive manufacturing is used to produce lighter, stronger parts and systems with much greater efficiency. It has uses across a variety of industries including:

  • In aerospace and automotive, additive manufacturing technology enables the fast production of lighter and stronger parts.
  • In healthcare, it is possible to produce implants and other prosthetics Dental & orthopedic implants—these can be cost-effectively made to the exact sizes needed for the patient (which are very individual in nature)
  • Jewelry manufacturing—complex and intricate designs can easily be produced
  • Low volume production—any industry which requires low volume production and/or benefits from rapid prototyping is ideal, including instrument mouthpiece making and component creation
  • Tool repair—additive manufacturing software can help fix and repair tools rather than replace them, which is both environmentally-friendly and very cost-effective

What are the advantages of additive manufacturing?

Additive manufacturing provides a number of advantages for industrial use. Significantly, Additive technologies produce parts that are lighter, stronger and faster to create than their traditional counterparts.

How does additive manufacturing work?

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is the process of adding material to create an object. Machines deposit material, layer upon layer, in precise geometric shapes, and Computer-aided-design software or 3D object scanners are used to create models to direct the hardware using additive manufacturing software features.

What materials are used in additive manufacturing?

A variety of materials are used in additive manufacturing, including metals, ceramics, and glass. Each material has its own advantages and applications. Powders for 3D printing metals can range from titanium to alloys, to precious metals such as gold. Polymers (including ABS, PLA, PVA and polycarbonate) and metals (gold, stainless steel, silver, steel, titanium) are two of the most commonly used materials. There are many other materials which can also be used for additive manufacturing, including ceramics, glass, resin, and potentially even human cells.

Are additive manufacturing and 3D printing the same?

3D printing is a more consumer-friendly phrase, and it’s becoming more and more popular in use than additive manufacturing. There are some subtle differences, however, and the term “additive manufacturing” can be used to refer to other processes such as rapid prototyping, whereas 3D printing is more restrictive.

The two phrases can best be defined as:

3D printing: Fabrication of objects through the deposition of a material using a print head, nozzle or other printer technology
Additive manufacturing: Making objects from 3D data, usually layer upon layer

See more FAQ