Addictive Additive: Blog

Our blog carves out a place for stories that connect with AM’s big future.

October 05, 2021

The Beginner’s Guide to Additive Manufacturing

Every once in a while, something life-changing comes along that completely overhauls the way we do something. In the case of manufacturing, that big change is 3D printing, also known as Additive Manufacturing.

We know what you’re thinking. “Is Additive Manufacturing really that amazing?”.  Yes, yes it is. And that’s not our bias speaking. 

Additive Manufacturing is truly a new chapter of creation. It makes products lighter, stronger, and more long-lasting, often for a fraction of traditional production costs. (As we said: life-changing.)

In this article, we’re explaining the what and why of Additive Manufacturing: how it works, what materials are used and what the real world applications are. Ready? Let’s get started.

Why is it called Additive Manufacturing and how does it work?

Simply put, Additive Manufacturing gets its name from the process of 3D printing. It describes the process of adding layer upon layer of material in order to create a product, as opposed to traditional methods, which subtract material through carving, milling, machining and shaping etc., to create. 

The Types of Additive Manufacturing

Though Additive Manufacturing comprises a variety of ways to build, they are all based on the same principle of adding material in order to create a finished product.

  1. Selective Laser Melting

    Selective Laser Melting uses a bed of powder and a laser heat source to create metal parts, also known as powder bed fusion (PBF). Materials used here include a variety of metal alloys, including copper, aluminum, stainless steel, titanium, and tungsten.
  2. Directed Energy Deposition

    This method makes use of a focused energy source, like lasers or plasma arcs, to melt a material while it’s being deposited by a nozzle. 
  3. Material Extrusion

    Material extrusion is a method most often used for plastics, although it can also be used with metals. The material is pushed through a heated nozzle, layer upon layer, to create an object.
  4. Material Jetting

    Think of an inkjet printer, but without ink. The jet moves back and forth to create the stacks of a 3D object.
  5. Binder Jetting

    Binder jetting is similar to material jetting, however in between the layers of material is also a layer of powder.
  6. Sheet Lamination

    Sheet lamination is quite simple: Thin sheets of material, like paper or metal, are stacked and bonded together by adhesive or welding, out of which a 3D object is cut. 
  7. Vat Polymerization

    Through a process called photopolymerization, a 3D object is created by exposing liquid polymers to ultraviolet (UV) light in a vat of liquid resin photopolymer, effectively turning a liquid into a solid.

What industries use Additive Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing has already taken many different industries by storm, offering parts, components and systems that are both stronger and more durable than those created by traditional methods.

  • Aerospace

Aerospace and aviation rely on many complex parts that must work together flawlessly. Coupled with stringent industry standards, it’s important that those parts are robust and reliable. AM has been a great player in aerospace already. Being able to imagine and then create complex shapes that cannot be machined in traditional ways has been a game changer and propelled the industry forward. Not only are the parts more innovative, the alloys used in AM are also lighter and stronger, significantly improving performance and reducing costs. Thrust chambers, heat exchangers, and jet engines are just some of the components already being produced through additive.

  • Automotive

In the automotive world, it’s all about scale. With AM, automotive parts can be produced faster and cheaper, while still meeting or even excelling the strict industrial safety standards. AM bridges the gap between prototyping and serial production by catering to volumes that would otherwise be quite costly and time consuming. Parts like aluminum brackets, brake calipers, and motor housing are just some examples of additive parts.

  • Energy

The elimination of tooling, full design flexibility and being able to immediately redefine production planning are key enablers of a smart and lean supply chain. AM cuts parts production and delivery down from weeks or months to just a few days, making it a super efficient production strategy for components like stator vanes, fuel nozzles, and rotor blades and many more parts used commonly in the energy sector.

  • Healthcare

Additive Manufacturing is already being used in healthcare to produce a wide range of medical devices and dental prostheses. For example: printing surgical implants, like orthopaedic implants, cranio-maxillofacial implants, or dental prosthetics, with lattice structures for enhanced osseointegration and reduced stress shielding. Using AM is more productive and less costly compared to conventional methods such as casting and machining. 

  • Tooling

Additive is also already being used to produce complete tools or tool inserts. Here one main area of application is the integration of conformal cooling channels that make it possible to shorten cycle times of part manufacturing, minimize stress loads in the components, and extend the tool life.

What are the Benefits of Additive Manufacturing

The benefits of additive manufacturing are manifold, and can be best summed up as: better, faster, stronger. 

  • Design Freedom and Complex Shapes

AM offers the ability to realize part designs that were previously impossible through traditional manufacturing processes. Multiple machined components can be consolidated and printed into one unified part. Even complex shapes become a possibility, allowing many industries to develop and advance their tools and processes for the next generation of innovation. 

  • Performance

With AM, parts become lighter, stronger, and better. Features such as conformal cooling, hollowed lattice structures, and more greatly improve metal part performance and function. Optimized topology allows for parts to maintain their same strength and load requirements while significantly reducing weight. Parts therefore perform better, are more durable and last longer.

  • Time

Drastically shortened development time for new components without the need for tooling means parts can get to production quicker. Parts can also be printed on-demand, which reduces costs and optimizes supply chains.

  • Scale

Decreased build time means that productions can scale significantly without sacrificing quality or incurring higher costs. Companies can ramp up their supplies and enjoy the benefits of a new stock of superior products.

The future of Additive Manufacturing 

Metal 3D printing technology offers many benefits for complex metal part production, becoming a cost-effective manufacturing alternative for countless applications across a variety of major industries. Choosing the right technology is critical, but forging partnerships with the right AM provider is the fastest path to success. 

Choosing SLM Solutions as your Additive Manufacturing has a variety of advantages. It’s of great importance to us to understand your application needs and to find the best way - and the best machine - to fulfill them. To create a turnkey experience, we also offer all the SLM® machine support equipment like external chillers, powder sieves, and post processing machinery. We also offer a variety of extended training and consulting programs curated by our metal AM technology experts. Our diverse team is ready to facilitate your journey of AM implementation by assisting with design evaluations, facility and workflow optimizations, industry qualifications and more.

Ready to learn more about additive manufacturing? Or even ready to print? 

Then get in touch with us today