Fabricating Change Through Additive Manufacturing

Published: June 12,2023


Traditional and Non-Traditional Manufacturing

To understand what additive manufacturing (AM) is, it is helpful to review “traditional” manufacturing methods. These methods include:

• Subtractive manufacturing which is when the material is subtracted/removed to create a component (e.g., machining/stamping/cutting/grinding).
• Formative manufacturing which is when the material is formed/manipulated to create a component (e.g., extruding/pressing/rolling/forging/casting).
• Fabricative processes which is when components are joined to create an assembly (e.g., welding/fastening/adhesives).

Non-traditional manufacturing methods encompass any method that deviates from the above highlighted methods.

What is Additive Manufacturing (AM)?

AM is considered a “non-traditional” manufacturing method. Most AM processes are very similar and involve adding/depositing material in many small consecutive layers to create a component or assembly of components as a single part. In a nutshell, AM is 3D printing. The term AM is typically used in the industrial/serial production of manufactured parts; of which 3D printing is a subset.

AM is a full suite of tools with over 18 different technologies in existence; with many more likely to emerge as the technology matures. Just like with any tool, the right tool must be used depending on the job. Using AM tools when there are better tools is akin to using a hammer to drive in a screw; if there is a better tool, it should be used. As a result, AM won’t solve every problem.

Two key areas where AM is a particularly beneficial/cost effective tool relative to traditional manufacturing methods are as follows:

Low volume production: E.g., Obsolete parts, one-off prototypes, component replacement in an assembly. See Figure 1 for a graph highlighting the comparison of cost versus number of parts produced when comparing traditional methods with AM.

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