written by Ken Vartanian, Optomec

Some companies combine additive manufacturing (AM) and subtractive methods to take advantage of what each process does best. For example, the time needed to build this stainless-steel electronic housing was reduced from 52 weeks for an entirely cast part to 3 weeks by machining the base housing and building up the vertical details directly on the housing using AM. (Source: Sandia National Labs)

(Source: Sandia National Labs)

Additive manufacturing (AM), aka 3D printing, has emerged as the first manufacturing revolution of the 21st century. Unlike subtractive manufacturing methods that remove material from a billet, metals AM builds up functional end products or product features layer by layer. This building-up process can provide many advantages over subtractive methods, including increased design flexibility, improved end-product performance, reduced time to market, lower manufacturing cost, and extended product life. These advantages are driving interest in AM technology for applications throughout the product lifecycle, from new product development, to low-volume manufacturing, to product repair.

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