The term 3D printing is another term for additive manufacturing. It is the process where materials are joined, layer by layer, to create a 3D part. In contrast, the term subtractive manufacturing is the process where machines remove material to create a part. 3D printers print based on thin horizontal cross sections from a 3D model. This is data created by computer-aided design.
3D printing enables light weight design, function integration, on-demand manufacturing and mass customisation. Most 3D printers are designed for prototyping and unsuitable for series production. The industrial 3D printing system of Additive Industries, MetalFAB1, focuses on series production.
The first applications of 3D printers were for concept modeling and prototyping and this still counts for around 30% of all applications. 3D printing is also used for tooling components, patterns and functional parts. Functional parts are parts used for testing or as a part in a final product. The production of functional parts is the fastest growing application of industrial 3D printing. Because of the high quality and reproducibility of Additive Industries’ industrial 3D printing system, the MetalFAB1 focuses on functional parts.
In the 3D printing industry different materials are used for printing, such as plastics, metals, ceramics, glass, composites and biomaterials. The materials can be processed with very different techniques. Parts can be created by extruding, jetting, photocuring, laminating or fusing materials. Additive Industries makes industrial 3D printing systems that print metal. The metal is printed using a powder bed fusion process. One, two, three or four lasers melt and fuse metal powder together to form a 3D part. This process offers a high accuracy and excellent material properties and it can reproduce geometries that are impossible to machine such as enclosed spaces.