Additive manufacturing is a generative process, where pysical parts can be built directly from 3D CAD models. Long time the constructive composition of parts was restricted from the classical production mechanics. Instead of removing material to get the end product, additive manufacturing is adding material from nothing to the finished product. This allows not only the production of parts, but to produce functional parts with more complex designs.
Additive manufacturing is a comprehensive description for all methods to produce fast and affordable parts. The production can be started directly from CAD files over an STL interface with formless (powder, liquid, etc.) or formneutral (filament) base material.
The process itself doesn’t need any moulds or tools, which makes it easy adaptable to new designs.
Complexity without Additional Cost
It actually costs less to print a complex part instead of a simple cube of the same size. The more complex – or, the less solid the object is – the faster and cheaper it can be produced by additive manufacturing.
Variety without Additional Cost
If a 3D printed part needs to be changed, it can simply be made on the original CAD file. The modified part can be printed right away.
No Assembly Required
Moving parts such as hinges or bicycle chains can be printed in metal directly “into” the product. This possibility can significantly reduce part numbers.
Short Lead Time
With a 3D printer engineers can create prototypes immediately after finishing the part’s STL file (STL: Stereo Lithography). As soon as the part is printed, engineers may then begin testing its properties instead of waiting weeks or months for a classic prototype or part to come in.
Little Skill Manufacturing
While complicated parts and high-tech applications ought to be left to the professionals, even children in elementary school have created their own figures using 3D printing technology.
Anything that can be dreamed up and designed with a CAD software, can be created with additive manufacturing technology.
Since only the amount of material that is needed for a part is used when printing, there is very little – if any – material waste compared to conventional production methods like for example milling.