What is Additive Manufacturing?

Many in the industry use the two terms interchangeably, additive manufacturing (AM) is the broader and more all-inclusive term. It is commonly associated with industrial applications, like the fabrication of functional prototypes. AM also involves end-use applications like the mass production of components.

The term “direct manufacturing” has also been used to highlight tool-free AM processes because objects are printed directly from CAD data. CNC (computer numerically controlled) machine tools revolutionized many manufacturing processes through digitization.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing is a process of building an object one thin layer at a time.

What are different AM technologies?

  1. Selective Laser Sintering, to create parts additively by sintering fine polymer powder particles, to fuse them together locally. The plastic parts are created layer by layer.
  2. MultiJet Fusion, a layer-based technology using plastic powder, using a fusing agent to fuse particles locally in the powder bed, and a detailing agent to obtain high-quality parts
  3. Polyjet, to 3D print resin.
  4. Clip (DLS), where a liquid resin is solidified by UV light layer by layer to create a rigid and detailed part.
  5. Colorjet, to create composite multicolor prints, thanks to a fine powdered material.
  6. Binder Jetting, for metal parts. A binding agent is deposited on the metal powder material, layer by layer, according to your 3D model.
  7. Selective Laser Melting, to create parts additively by fusing metal powder particles together in a full melting process. The metal part will be created layer by layer, according to your 3D model.

 What are the differences between 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing?

It is appropriate to consider the functional vs ornate nature of the printed object when referring to 3D printing in comparison to additive manufacturing. Manufacturers more typically use AM to produce functional prototypes, molds, mold inserts and end-use products, while the intent of consumer 3D printing is more often used to print one-of-a-kind ornate objects like intricate vases and lampshades.

One key difference is the industrial vs consumer focus. While consumers typically focus on the singular vs mass production of 3D-printed objects, businesses increasingly use additive manufacturing for the large-scale production of end-use objects.

Increasingly, manufacturers see additive manufacturing as a cost-saving alternative in certain situations where CNC machining, injection molding and investment casting were used in the past. Sometimes, a single AM-produced component replaces many parts, reducing assembly times and simplifying supply chains.

The seven AM processes are distinct and often quite different from one another. For example, when the term 3D printing services is used, few lay people make the connection to vat photopolymerization, where an ultraviolet laser solidifies layers of liquid resin in a tank. Instead, most such individuals actually think of fused deposition modeling (FDM), just one of the seven AM processes, when they hear the term 3D printing.


There is a thin line between the two. One concentrates on the industrial needs while the other not necessarily requires industrial attention. 3d Printing can be engaged into by common consumers whilst the industry needs AM to satisfy their needs.


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