What is additive printing?

Stampa 3D Additiva

What is additive printing?

Additive Printing represents one of the most significant breakthroughs in the evolution of the manufacturing sector. This technology allows parts and components to be produced directly from digital models in a process known as rapid prototyping. But what exactly is additive printing?

Additive Printing: definition and operation

Additive printing is a digital manufacturing process based on CAD modelling, rapid prototyping, and component assembly technologies. This technology has many advantages over traditional manufacturing, as it creates customised objects easily and quickly. In additive printing, the object is produced by adding physical material rather than reducing it, as in the subtractive process.

How additive printing works depends on the type of technology used. However, a common mechanism can be found in all the different systems. When starting a printing process, the system sends information to the device that controls the positioning and configuration of the material used. This information makes it possible to determine the material layer to be printed precisely without requiring manual changes. Objects are created within minutes because material is added rather than taken away, and there is no need to finish them.

One of the main advantages of additive printing is its flexibility. With this technology, it is possible to produce customised objects with complex details and many blank areas within the same object. In addition, additive printing encourages the production of prototypes that can be tested for innovative solutions before the more expensive traditional industrial methods are used.

The characteristics of additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is a production technology that changes the way products are designed and manufactured. It is based on manufacturing parts and products using a three-dimensional printing process. The main features of additive printing are speed, customisation, cost reduction and versatility.

Metals have always been among the most essential materials in the additive manufacturing market, and investment in metal 3D printing has grown significantly in recent years.

Speed is one of 3D printing’s most significant advantages, as it allows manufacturers to produce parts and products much faster than traditional manufacturing. With 3D printing technology, products can be designed in minutes and printed directly without requiring specialised tools or machinery.

Products can also be customised thanks to new printing technologies such as additive printing. Many 3D printers allow users to adjust the product’s size, colour, or other characteristics according to customer requirements. This flexibility makes it possible to meet the demand for customised or limited-edition products.

Fused deposition modelling (FDM) 3D printers create parts by melting and extruding thermoplastic filament. Stereolithography (SLA) polymerises liquid resin with a laser. Selective laser sintering (SLS) melts small polymer powder particles with a high-power laser.

Another positive aspect of 3D printing is the cost reduction associated with its production. Due to rapid production, 3D printing can have significantly lower costs as it requires less material and labour than a traditional manufacturing process. Delivery times are also shorter, which saves money as there is no need to wait for materials to arrive from a distant supplier.

Finally, 3D printing offers a certain degree of versatility that can be exploited according to individual needs. This versatility allows for the quick design of unique parts or prototyping of complex models, with the possibility of further customising the parts before final production. This flexibility can also significantly impact sectors such as mechanical engineering, architecture, and the aerospace industry.

Materials are deposited layer by layer in additive manufacturing.

Additive printing can produce numerous objects, such as complex mechanical components, jewellery, furniture, medical prosthetics and aircraft parts. The printing process starts with acquiring digital files containing detailed information about the desired model. This file is loaded into a 3D printing machine. Depending on the type of printer and the material to be printed, the model can be created in various materials such as plastic, metal, ceramic and even liquid wax. Once the digital file is uploaded, the 3D printer starts building the object following the instructions provided by the file.

Materials are deposited layer by layer until the desired model is completed. 3D printing takes longer than other production methods, such as manufacturing semi-finished products or metal casting. However, printing times can be minimised if the latest techniques and technologies are used.

There are various methods and machines for 3D printing using different technologies.

Additive manufacturing (additive printing) is an emerging technique of modern digital manufacturing that enables the creation of complex shapes and designs using highly specialised materials from a 3D model. 3D printing is a mechanical technique that converts digital models into physical objects using solid and durable composite materials.

There are several methods and machines for 3D printing using different technologies. FDM (Fused Deposition Modelling) 3D printing is one of the most innovative and widely used methods. This technology uses thin coils of polymers or plastic filaments that are turned into three-dimensional prototypes. Each layer of the mould is defined by a pattern and is printed by the machine following the heating of a nozzle with the given layer and deposition on a build bed. The technology for extruding material on ultra-thin layers is known as SLA (Stereolithography). In this case, the process involves using a UV beam to section a curved sheet. At this point, when the protective polymer liquid reaches the beam’s light, there is a hardening of the material application defined by a CAD model.

Several types of 3D printers are available, including SLS (Selective Laser Sintering) and Polyjet.

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