Is there a difference between 3D printing and additive manufacturing, or AM in short? And if it is the case, why should you need to know about it? In this article, I will explain the meaning of the two terms and what they designate in the manufacturing world.
Many of us believe that 3D printing and additive manufacturing refer to the same industrial process of layering materials to create parts. In fact, the two phrases have grown to be synonymous with the manufacturing process. So, what precisely is the distinction between 3D printing and additive manufacturing?
New means of digital and direct manufacturing are dramatically altering the what, where, how, and when of making things. So, what function do the terms additive manufacturing and 3D printing play in characterizing new methods of production? Let’s start by fleshing out the terms 3D printing and additive manufacturing respectively.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing is a manufacturing method that involves building an object layer by layer with the use of a 3D printer and CAD software. This is in sharp contrast to traditional manufacturing methods, which involve removing material from an existing piece of material. Milling, for example, involves removing material from a billet to make a part with a certain geometry. Objects are made by depositing layers of material in 3D printing. The 3D printer is told how much material to deposit and where to deposit it using software.
The printing medium used by most 3D printers is polymer. It’s a flexible and widely available material that lends itself nicely to 3D printing. Some 3D printers, however, can print metals, alloys, and even ceramics.
The term 3D printing now applies to a variety of technologies, although it is most generally associated with filament-based plastic printers, such as Markforged’s range of solutions. Binder jet printers, laser metal 3D printers, and 3D printers for glass and clay are all available.
In essence, the term 3D printing refers to both the printer and the whole spectrum of technologies that may create an object from a CAD file, regardless of the type of printer. SO, 3D printing refers more to the technology, than the process.
What is additive manufacturing?
The term additive manufacturing refers to the process of adding material to an object. 3D printing is thus a type of additive manufacturing. It’s called additive manufacturing when an object is made by adding material rather than subtracting it. Additive manufacturing, like 3D printing, often necessitates the use of a machine as well as CAD software. The machine builds the required object by adding material according to the instructions from the CAD program.
Additive manufacturing (AM) is a broad word that belongs in a boardroom rather than a factory or garage. AM, of course, distinguishes itself from previous, subtractive methods like as milling. Otherwise, the word refers to the production process that has been revolutionized by 3D printing, rather than the 3D printer itself.
AM allows for the production of customized parts in large quantities, as well as the storage of raw materials such as filament and the printing of parts on demand. A great example of this type of use is Swedish logistics company PostNord, and their order on demand solution using 3D printers from HP.
Additive manufacturing technologies allow for truly innovative designs, such as hollow designs with infill or topologically optimal designs that are not attainable with subtractive manufacturing techniques. In this sense, AM is about leveraging all of 3D printing’s design and production capabilities to engineering, manufacturing, and supply chains.
To not overly complicate things, the two words refer to the same thing in the most basic sense: Additively manufacturing things straight from CAD. In daily talk, they are synonyms and therefore interchangeable.