Design-driven manufacturing: 3D Printing Manufacturing Methods
Additive Manufacturing refers to a process by which digital 3D design data is used to build up a component in layers by depositing material. The term "3D printing" is increasingly used as a synonym for Additive Manufacturing. However, the latter is more accurate in that it describes a professional production technique which is clearly distinguished from conventional methods of material removal. Instead of milling a workpiece from solid block, for example, Additive Manufacturing builds up components layer by layer using materials which are available in fine powder form. A range of different metals, plastics and composite materials may be used.
The technology has especially been applied in conjunction with Rapid Prototyping - the construction of illustrative and functional prototypes. Additive Manufacturing is now being used increasingly in Series Production. It gives Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in the most varied sectors of industry the opportunity to create a distinctive profile for themselves based on new customer benefits, cost-saving potential and the ability to meet sustainability goals.
The strengths of Additive Manufacturing lie in those areas where conventional manufacturing reaches its limitations. The technology is of interest where a new approach to design and manufacturing is required so as to come up with solutions. It enables a design-driven manufacturing process - where design determines production and not the other way around. What is more, Additive Manufacturing allows for highly complex structures which can still be extremely light and stable. It provides a high degree of design freedom, the optimisation and integration of functional features, the manufacture of small batch sizes at reasonable unit costs and a high degree of product customisation even in serial production.
The system starts by applying a thin layer of the powder material to the building platform. A powerful laser beam then fuses the powder at exactly the points defined by the computer-generated component design data. The platform is then lowered and another layer of powder is applied. Once again the material is fused so as to bond with the layer below at the predefined points. Depending on the material used, components can be manufactured using stereolithography, laser sintering or 3D printing. EOS Additive Manufacturing Technology based on laser sintering has been in existence for over 20 years.
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