3D printing has entered the common vocabulary, while additive manufacturing is rather unknown. However, both names refer to the same idea. The difference, which justifies the use of different names, stems from the fact that additive manufacturing often refers to the equipment used to manufacture parts used in commercial production, whereas 3D printing is a general expression used to talk about all these technologies in a broad sense.
How does additive manufacturing work ?
The process varies depending on the type of equipment used, but in general, the device that performs the additive manufacturing works from a computer file that sends it precise information about the format, design, and textures of the object. If there isn’t an object prototype to work from, it’s necessary to develop a highly-detailed 3D model using modelling software.
Of course, it’s also possible to work from an object that already exists. In this case, the object in question must be scanned with a 3D scanner, which analyzes and converts the object into a 3D file using non-contact sensors.
The object is then constructed by injecting, layer by layer, a liquid material generally made from a mixture of clumping powder and a binding agent, which then undergoes a hardening phase. These days, technology is rapidly advancing in this field, and additive manufacturing equipment is offering increasingly precise results.
Most 3D printers sold to the general public only manufacture plastic objects, but when it comes to the equipment used in additive manufacturing, they can also be used to create metal, resin, paper, wax, or ceramic pieces. That’s why additive manufacturing is more applicable to manufacturing practices (e.g., in factories).
What are the uses of additive manufacturing ?
As we’ve just discussed, additive manufacturing is a very widespread practice in the manufacturing sector. Many industries rely on it, including aviation, automotive, construction, and every field that uses prototypes. This manufacturing process is equally suitable for small and large-scale production. In addition, it can prove useful in different parts of the production cycle, whether it’s creating a mould or manufacturing a part. For example, it’s possible to use this technique to make certain car parts.
What are its advantages ?
Although the basic principles behind additive manufacturing aren’t new, this method is seen as an innovative technology. In the industrial sector, many companies have quickly taken advantage of the benefits of this technology by integrating additive manufacturing into their production method.
First of all, there’s performance speed. While in the past, constructing an object (especially a prototype) would have taken a long time, the additive manufacturing process is fast and efficient. You just have to send the instructions to the device, and it takes care of the rest.
This improvement in efficiency also leads to a reduction in costs, which is a very appealing factor for companies that are always trying to save money.
Finally, there’s also the personalized look of the objects, which can be very interesting. With modelling software, anything is possible! From an airplane part to a model of a sculpture, this technology knows no bounds!