4 Different Types of Additive Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is a broad term referring to all methods of manufacturing that build by adding materials in layers, rather than subtracting them. In sharp contrast to any additive method of manufacturing are subtractive manufacturing techniques like Computerized Numerical Control (CNC), because they remove material from a mass to sculpt the product. Since additive manufacturing significantly reduces waste, it is both functionally and financially more efficient than subtractive methods. Let’s quickly go through some of the most widely used additive processes in modern industry today.

3D Printing

There are several different standards of 3D printing that are in use today and depending on what is being printed and for what purpose, the method will vary. However, all forms of 3D printing technology will build a product by layering materials, which means that 3D printing as a whole falls under the umbrella of additive manufacturing. In fact, as you will realize, almost all forms of modern additive manufacturing processes are industrial 3D printing methods. To know more about the processes and standards of 3D printed additive manufacturing from a business perspective, take a look at this Rapid PSI Additive Manufacturing guide, which explains how to grow a small business with 3D manufacturing.

Directed Energy Deposition (DED)

Directed Energy Deposition or DED is a thermal, additive manufacturing process which involves melting, pouring, and layering. It melts and sinters metallic powder and pours the liquid metal out in layers to create the desired three-dimensional object. For the melting and welding process, an industrial grade laser, plasma beam, or electron beam is utilized. DED is almost exclusively used in the manufacturing of metallic products. Other than manufacturing, DED is also used to augment existing products with additional parts and, when possible, even repair compatible objects. Since DED 3D printing can simultaneously use multiple metals in the same project, Directed Energy Deposition (DED) has several advantages as compared to most alternative additive processes.

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Stereolithography (SLA)

Stereolithography or SLA 3D printing is almost ancient (1987) in its origin, especially when compared to other, more recent industrial methods of 3D printing. Old as it may be, it is still used widely across several industries due to its cost-effectiveness. The additive process used is technically known as photo-polymerization. This involves melting, layering, and solidifying an UV resin of choice inside an industrial vat to manufacture the object. Stereolithography uses an industrial laser and rapidly adjusting mirrors to melt the resin. There are several derivative processes which stemmed from stereolithography over the years such as the hugely popular FDM method. Just like stereolithography, fused deposition modeling (FDM) is also an additive manufacturing process, albeit a cheaper and less reliable one.

Powder Bed Fusion (PBF)

Finally, we have PBF or powder bed fusion, which can be an extremely complicated additive process. Note that PBF and EBM or electron beam melting are the same additive manufacturing methods, but they are not to be confused with Directed Energy Deposition (DED), even though both techniques may use electron beams. 

EBM can be used to manufacture three dimensional products from a bed of powdered plastic, sand, metal, or ceramic, which makes it one of the most versatile additive manufacturing techniques. The electron beam melts and fuses the bed of powdered material, layer-by-layer, until the design is materialized in 3D. However, unlike the previously explained additive manufacturing processes, PBF builds the product form bottom to top, rather than pouring liquid material from the top in layers.

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