ManufacturingJuly 19, 2022

What is additive manufacturing?

Industrial grade 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the construction of a three-dimensional object from a CAD model or a digital 3D model by adding layers of materials.
Avatar Rebecca Lambert

When you think of 3D printing, you might instinctively picture someone in their garage creating a rudimentary part on an entry-level 3D printer using filaments they’ve bought off Amazon. That can be true. But what you might not know is that the very same technology is also responsible for creating highly complex aircraft parts, carrying out advanced medical procedures and developing custom running shoes that fit the individual wearer’s feet perfectly. Industrial grade 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the construction of a three-dimensional object from a CAD model or a digital 3D model by adding layers of materials and it’s transforming the very essence of how products are made, the qualities they possess and how they’re delivered to the end user.  

Why it is called additive manufacturing?

Additive manufacturing involves building up layers of material, whether that’s metals, plastics, alloys, or composites, to create solid objects. This is compared to traditional manufacturing, which instead subtracts raw material. It’s a manufacturing approach that’s well suited to the aerospace and defense, automotive, life sciences and consumer goods industries, to name but a few. And it’s fast gaining traction not just for building prototypes, but final products.

How is additive manufacturing transforming industries?

Additive Manufacturing can be the corner stone for the next industrial revolution in manufacturing. In recent years, manufacturers have invested heavily in additive manufacturing capabilities. This technology gives designers more freedom to unleash their creativity and innovative thinking, since the technology can produce complex geometries that are highly difficult, if not impossible, with traditional subtractive manufacturing. Better products can also result since 3D printed parts can use new materials that are stronger and lighter than what can be created using traditional methods like computer numerical control (CNC) machining and injection molding. Global research firm McKinsey cites an example where an additively manufactured titanium bracket produced by Airbus is 30% lighter than its predecessor without compromising performance or durability.

Additive manufacturing offers companies the possibilities to achieve:

  • Limitless innovation
  • Leaner operations
  • Agility from design to production
  • Mass-scale customization
  • Enhanced sustainability

In aerospace and defense, additive manufacturing is transforming entire supply chains. For example, eliminating the need for molds and tooling when making parts allows manufacturers to significantly accelerate the innovation process and reduce the amount of raw material and energy required in production by up to 90%. Spare parts no longer need to be manufactured and stored; they can be 3D printed to order – ideal for aircraft sustainment programs such as the B-1 Lancer, a historical plane which is being recreated in the virtual world and may eventually once again fly with 3D printed new parts and repairs.

Automotive makers are taking a similar tact for their classic and out-of-production cars, 3D printing specific parts according to car owners’ requirements.

In the medical world, additive manufacturing is helping to save lives. At Rennes University Hospital in France, physicians are treating patients with brain aneurysms in a revolutionary way, creating sophisticated 3D-printed anatomical twins to simulate complex procedures and determine the best approach ahead of live surgery.

How does Dassault Systèmes help customers embrace additive manufacturing?

Manufacturers are successfully harnessing the power of the 3DEXPERIENCE platform to create a seamless data flow across the entire product development lifecycle as they go from concept and design to simulation, analysis and production. By adding additive manufacturing into the mix, design and production co-exist in the virtual world, allowing manufacturers to effectively leap from a 3D model to an industrial grade part or product. Further, the 3DEXPERIENCE platform offers direct connections to specialized suppliers,  while capturing all necessary data points to 3D print customizedparts.

Critically, 3DS solutions help engineers to perform physics based simulations to optimize the entire additive manufacturing process ahead of physical production. This allows them to virtually explore all build and material options, factor in material distortion, analyze thermal stresses, determine mechanical behavior, and refine machine parameters to create the highest quality parts that meet design goals.Watch: 3DS Customer Knust-Godwin shares how they balance the benefits of subtractive and additive manufacturing

3DS software also empowers designers to explore entirely new ways of unleashing their creativity. In the Compass article, “The age of generative design has arrived,” we explore how additive manufacturing goes hand in hand with a new artificial intelligence design approach called generative design: “a process in which designers give their computers specifications and rules governing space, force and load, materials and more, and then allow the computers to generate alternatives.”

Combining tools like CATIA xGenerative Design with additive manufacturing lets designers create incredible new shapes and forms such as latticing, striking the perfect balance between material structure and empty space without compromising on strength.

What’s next for additive manufacturing?

Widespread adoption of additive manufacturing is gathering pace. A recent report values the global additive manufacturing market at US$8.42 billion and expects it to reach US$35.10 billion by 2028. As more companies tap into the technology’s full potential, we could expect to see additive manufacturing emerge as the dominant force for mass-scale personalized production.

“Additive manufacturing is on the cusp of stardom,” McKinsey analysts wrote. “Faster machines, better materials, and smarter software are helping to make AM (additive manufacturing) a realistic solution for many real-world production applications.”

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