Additive Manufacturing & Rapid Prototyping
Additive Manufacturing is an appropriate name to describe the technologies that build 3D objects by adding layer-upon-layer of material, whether the material is plastic, metal, concrete or even one biological tissue.
Common to Additive Manufacturing technologies is the use of a computer, 3D modelling software (Computer Aided Design or CAD), machine equipment and layering material.
Once a CAD sketch is produced, the Additive Manufacturing equipment reads in data from the CAD file and lays downs or adds successive layers of liquid, powder, sheet material or other, in a layer-upon-layer fashion to fabricate a 3D object.
The term Additive Manufacturing encompasses many technologies including subsets like 3D Printing, Rapid Prototyping (RP), Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM), layered manufacturing and additive fabrication.
Additive Manufacturing application is limitless. Early use of AM in the form of Rapid Prototyping focused on preproduction visualization models.
More recently, Additive Manufacturing is being used to fabricate end-use products in aircraft, dental restorations, medical implants, automobiles, and even fashion products.
Increasingly additive manufacturing is becoming a real world and volume method of production presenting unique opportunities and heralding the dawn of Mass customisation in manufacturing.
There are many applications of AM technology with degrees of sophistication to meet diverse needs including:
- a means to create highly customized products
- a method to produce parts that otherwise would not have been able to be manufactured or if they could would have been extremely expensive
- creation of rapid and bespoke, as well as conventional, industrial tooling
- to produce small (moving now towards medium) batches of production parts
- in future even the possibility of production of human organs (some examples already exist!)
Some experts and practitioners envision Additive Manufacturing as complimentary to subtractive manufacturing (removing material like machining, or drilling out material) and to lesser degree forming (like forging). Regardless, Additive Manufacturing offers the accessibility to create, customize and/or repair product, and in the process, redefine current production technology.
AMAP have been involved in this area for a number of years and have access to a range of Additive Manufacturing and Rapid Prototyping technologies.