What is Additive Manufacturing?

You might have heard the term additive manufacturing being thrown around recently. Additive manufacturing, or AM, is another word for 3D printing. 3D printing is a process that involves continually adding layers to create an object. The name additive manufacturing basically signifies that the manufacturing process is additive, unlike the traditional process that involves the removal of a material.

All kinds of materials can be used in additive manufacturing. Plastics, metals, and even muscle tissues are used in 3D printers. Basically, if a material can be made malleable, it can be used in AM. This versatility is part of what makes the technology so exciting.

Additive manufacturing offers increased product customization. It’s not practical to offer dozens of different designs, but it can be practical to make additions to a base design. Customization in serial production wouldn’t be possible without 3D printing.

AM is incredibly versatile and seemingly endless possibilities. There’s a wide variety of materials that can be used in AM, but the things that can be created are even more diverse. Houses, clothing, robots, furniture, dental implants, and even organ tissue are all being printed.

3D printing technology is nowhere close to peaking, and many manufacturers are already implementing additive manufacturing. GE recently announced their plans to print jet engines, and Siemens is using additive manufacturing to save time on replacement turbine blades.

It’s clear that additive manufacturing can benefit the manufacturing industry, but many people are wondering if AM will have negative affects on the industry. Today, anyone can buy a 3D printer. You can create practically anything with the right CAD file and a printer. So if people are able to manufacture whatever they want from the comfort of their own homes, why should they buy it from a store?

This concern isn’t unfounded, but it’s no reason to start panicking. Keep in mind that 3D printers have been available to consumers for years, and manufacturing is still thriving. So far, additive manufacturing is proving to be more beneficial than harmful for the manufacturing industry.