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What is Additive Manufacturing (AM)? From Prototyping to Production

Updated: Dec 1, 2021

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Additive Manufacturing Concepts

Additive manufacturing is quickly becoming the desirable method of manufacturing, but what is it? And what technologies are classified as additive manufacturing?

In a nutshell, additive manufacturing (AM) is any manufacturing process that creates a part by adding material, layer by layer.

Additive manufacturing is the opposite concept of subtractive manufacturing (think machining: the material is removed from the stock during processing to create the final part), where AM begins from nothing to create the final part.

AM usually involves the use of CAD, some form of automation to perform the work, and the input of layering material. Not all AM uses automation to create parts, however, as there is one industry that predates today's definition of additive manufacturing: composites!

Okay, I get the concept, but what are some examples?

The most common AM process is Fused Deposition Molding (FDM), commonly called 3D printing, where a printer lays subsequent layers of plastic on top of the previous one. Many different types of FDM manufacturing are available, as shown below.

This is commonly thought of as the only type of AM available, but technological advances have been increasing the capabilities of AM throughout many different industries, including composites.

AM in Composites, you say?

Additive manufacturing in composites is a seemingly new concept when compared to general FDM, which is widely available nowadays.