written by Ken Vartanian, Optomec
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.