Knowledge Center


The Case for Additive Manufacturing

Production additive manufacturing (AM) was once something to look forward to, a future application of 3D printing technology. Early adopters of 3D printing for rapid prototyping saw its value for design iteration and product development, but the material choices and systems were too limited to consider those early prints as final production parts. But times have changed. Where there was once just one type of 3D printing, there are now seven distinct families of processes and many, many machine suppliers. AM’s material portfolio is growing, adding new metal alloys, polymers and even composites all the time. Software is making the process more consistent and reliable, while also enabling next-generation designs that only additive can make. Production AM has officially arrived.

This doesn’t mean that additive manufacturing will replace machining or injection molding or casting. It does mean, however, that manufacturers have an increasing variety of choices available. AM is the right choice when it provides benefits such as speed, assembly consolidation, lightweighting, cost savings and material advantages. The video below introduces some additive manufacturing and 3D printing basics including scenarios where the technology is best applied.

While some manufacturers choose to center their businesses on production AM, it doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Many additive manufacturers begin by 3D printing prototypes, fixtures or tooling, and find their way into production of metal or plastic components. Speed, flexibility and better designs are all possible when the prototyping technology can also function as the production method.

How a Prototyping 3D Printer Became a Production 3D Printer

Boyce Technologies was already a leader in manufacturing communications devices, but 3D printing and a partnership with BigRep have helped it remain competitive—first through prototyping, and now in production.


Where Does Additive Manufacturing Make Sense?


FAQs About Additive Manufacturing

  • Is additive manufacturing the same as 3D printing?
  • Are 3D-printed parts as good as those made through conventional technologies?
  • In what situations does additive manufacturing make sense?
  • What is the best use of additive?


Polymer Parts

Advantages of polymer 3D printing include the ability to manufacture plastic parts without expensive, time-consuming and static injection mold tooling.

Metal Parts

The most common 3D printing technologies for metal parts additive manufacturing are wire or powder deposition, powder bed fusion, and binder jetting.

Design Issues

Two common design strategies used in conjunction with 3D printing are topology optimization and generative design.