What is additive manufacturing?
When it comes to manufacturing there are many different aspects involved in the process. Starting with the concept and industrial design of the product, right until the product is shipped it can almost seem overwhelming. Thankfully in the last few decades a new additive manufacturing technology has emerged to make the process easier. Once considered a luxury 3D printing is now being widely used by different companies in many sectors throughout the world.
If you are new to the world of product development, you may have come across the term additive manufacturing but not known what it actually meant. If that’s the case, you are probably not alone. Lots of people have heard of the term but aren’t entirely sure what it represents. Beyond this, there is often confusion about what the role of additive manufacturing is, and what part it plays in the product development process.
The definition of additive manufacturing
To put it in the simplest possible terms, additive manufacturing technologies are those which allows us to build three dimensional objects with the help of 3d printers. Essentially additive manufacturing is where you build one layer on top of the other in order to create a 3 D product. Interestingly additive manufacturing is a process that can be adapted to a wide range of materials including plastic, metal, concrete, Kevlar etc.
Even though additive manufacturing technology is a relatively new concept, its range of applications is almost endless. Some of the more common uses of additive manufacturing include prototyping in order to visualise a product prior to mass production, one off highly customised parts or products made to the specific instructions of a customer, the production of a small number of parts where mass production would be overkill due to cost and number of required pieces. There’s heaps of other applications for this technology as well, just have a look at some of the examples we’ve put together here.
Types of additive manufacturing
Additive manufacturing companies often provide a range of type of manufacturing based on different processes. This is one of the reasons why it can be confusing as often people will refer to different processes all under the same name.
Here are some of the most common types of additive manufacturing:
This is considered to be a very high and technology. SLA utilises laser technology in order to cure multiple layers of photo-polymer resin. In case this is a term you are not familiar with, it simply means a polymer with thermo-plastic properties which are known to change properties when exposed to light.
FDM is a process oriented type of additive manufacturing that involves the use of thermoplastic materials. These materials are injected through nozzles and onto a platform, with this process endlessly repeated layer after layer until the final product is created. This is quite an amazing process to watch as it can be very mesmerising seeing a product almost materialise out of thin air.
MJM or multi-jet modelling has been compared to how an inkjet printer works. This type of printer moves backwards and forwards and it can incorporate hundreds of small jets printing thermo-polymer materials in much the same way as an inkjet printer layers ink onto paper.
So there’s a bit of a primer for you on the basics of 3-D printing and / or additive manufacturing whatever you would like to call it. To be honest you don’t need to know the specifics of this process. If you have an end result or product in mind give us a call, we’ll explain anything about the process that is unclear to you and get back to you with a quote in 5-10 minutes. So call us today 🙂