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Additive Manufacturing Technologies

Harvard (Charles River) IMG 7718
(Harvard University - Harvard Taiwan Student Association)


- Overview

Additive manufacturing (AM) 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 one day…..human tissue. 

Common to AM technologies is the use of a computer, 3D modeling software (Computer Aided Design or CAD), machine equipment and layering material. Once a CAD sketch is produced, the AM 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 AM encompasses many technologies including subsets like 3D Printing, Rapid Prototyping (RP), Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM), layered manufacturing and additive fabrication.

AM technology has the potential to solve the challenges facing companies today by improving the processes required to produce complex products and parts. However, there are still sizable barriers to the practicability of AM, especially at an industrial scale. It will take concerted effort and collaboration from the growing number of additive manufacturing companies to overcome these challenges and realize the potential of AM.


- The Steps of Additive Manufacturing Processes

Additive manufacturing (and 3D printing) is the process of printing parts, sub-assemblies or entire products layer-by-layer from detailed computer aided design (CAD) models. This process builds parts layer by layer by depositing material according to digital 3D design data. The process works by:

  • Laying down thin layers of material in the form of liquid or powdered plastic, metal or cement.
  • Fusing the layers together.
  • Applying powder once again.
  • Fusing the powder grains with the solidified layer below.
  • Filling a bed with powder, and melting the parts of the powder that you want to form a solid part layer by layer.
  • All the loose powder falls away from your final part

The process involves:

  • Importing the part design as an STL file into an additive manufacturing “slicer” software
  • The slicer software translating the STL file into a set of machine instructions for the 3D printer
  • Laying down thin layers of material in precise geometric shapes based on a CAD model
  • Fusing the layers together

Additive manufacturing allows materials to be created without joints and with minimal post-processing. Multiple materials can be used during this process, which makes it easy to create new products with minimal waste and lower materials costs.


[More to come ...]

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