3D Printing

The Benefits of Additive Manufacturing

By Samantha Bild on March 8, 2018

Haven't deployed additive manufacturing solutions at your organization yet? Still unsure of what it is or how it can provide business and operational advantages? TriMech can help. View our guide to learn how additive manufacturing can impact your design workflow and how it differs from subtractive manufacturing methods.

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What is additive manufacturing?

First, know that additive manufacturing uses 3D printing technology to create parts and assemblies without tooling. Two Stratasys technologies, FDM and PolyJet, augment or replace traditional methods of prototyping, machining and even final part production. Additive manufacturing reduces design risk, provides efficiencies for the manufacturing process and is used for low-production part runs.

How does additive manufacturing provide business and operational advantages?

Additive manufacturing offers several advantages throughout the design workflow including:

  • Traditional Manufacturing Advantages: Additive Manufacturing Design CycleRapid production of manufacturing aids (such as jigs/fixtures) increases efficiencies for traditional manufacturing operations and reduces costly traditional machining.
  • Prototyping Advantages: Designers can iterate faster with rapid prototyping techniques, resulting in faster design cycles and better designs.
  • Direct Digital Manufacturing Advantages: Production without tooling allows for small production runs at low cost and very fast turnaround.

How does additive manufacturing compare to subtractive manufacturing?

Unlike subtractive manufacturing which removes material, additive manufacturing adds material through extruding thermoplastics or jetting thermosetting acrylics. As a result, this reduces waste and allows businesses to produce parts faster and at a lower cost than traditional subtractive techniques.

Not only is additive manufacturing more budget-friendly, but the parts can also be designed with internal features or complex geometries. This would be challenging (or impossible) to produce using subtractive methods. 3D printing allows assemblies of parts, including those requiring functional movement, to be produced. Also, parts are created directly from CAD files without manual toolpath setup.

What possibilities does additive manufacturing offer prototyping and manufacturing?

With additive manufacturing, prototypes can be operated functionally and look realistic at the same time. Stratasys technologies provide either a simulation of properties or a direct printing of the same materials as end-use parts. In addition, 3D printed patterns can be created for rapid casting/layup of the end-use materials. This allows concept models to be built, where users can experience prototypes in full color with transparency and soft-touch features in a matter of hours.

Plus, the manufacturing capabilities with additive manufacturing are extended, too. From casting patterns or prototype tooling for a range of molding applications to printing tough thermoplastics with good tolerances, there are several ways to save time and cost during manufacturing. The wide range of assembly-line tools make masking, drill guides and specialty fixtures simple to produce directly from CAD files. As a result, the end-use parts are printed with durable materials. 

Ready to learn more? Watch our On-Demand Webinar, Additive vs. Subtractive: How to Choose.

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