Additive Manufacturing (AM) is the process of adding material layer upon layer to construct a 3D object, it is also a very versatile way to manufacture as the material can be metal, plastic, and concrete. Additive Manufacturing is a general term that is used to cover many AM technologies, including 3D Printing, additive fabrication, Direct Digital Manufacturing, layered manufacturing and Rapid Prototyping.
Government is putting increasing pressure on all sectors (especially automotive and aerospace) to reduce CO2 emissions. AM can often provide opportunities for reducing emissions and weight saving. Already some OEMs (especially in the aerospace industry) are pushing for their suppliers to either be using AM or to have a plan in place to introduce it.
As with most manufacturing technologies, there are advantages and disadvantages. In the case of metal, the way most printing processes work is to build up a product using metal powders, however this can mean the products contain defects. This then has an adverse effect on the products’ mechanical properties, although it must be said that companies are working to improve the process.
Another issue is cooling, because as the material cools, once deposited, it can distort the intended shape. This can be compensated for by using simulation software (e.g. 3DExperience) which allows the user to look at the deformation and compensate in the model.
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