Featured image of Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Introduction & Overview

Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Introduction & Overview

by Tyler KoslowMay 29, 2017

Want to learn more about additive manufacturing technologies? Here's a breakdown of technologies, applications, companies, and services.

Year by year, the additive manufacturing industry continues to flourish in ways that were previously unimaginable. Currently, the market is divided into two primary factions: one for consumers and another for industrial purposes.

In this additive manufacturing technologies guide, we will focus on the professional uses of 3D printing technology. Whether you’re a manufacturing business owner, an industrial engineer looking to create a functional automotive prototype, or anyone else who could benefit from professional-grade additive manufacturing, we’ve strung together an incredibly comprehensive breakdown of the pros and cons of industrial additive manufacturing as well as an introduction to the different technologies, applications, companies, and services that are out there.

This guide will show you how to integrate this emerging technology into the everyday workflow of your business.

Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Overview

  1. Pros of Using Additive Manufacturing Technologies
  2. Cons of Using Additive Manufacturing Technologies
  3. Additive Manufacturing Technologies in depth
  4. Business Applications
  5. The Best Companies
  6. The Best 3D Printing Services
  7. Conclusion

Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Overview Pros & Cons

Image of Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Overview: Pros & Cons

While 3D printing is a considerably groundbreaking technology, there are advantages and disadvantages that it can offer. If you’re thinking about integrating additive manufacturing technologies into your business, it’s important to recognize the pros and cons.

Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Pros

  • Speed – One of the primary advantages of additive manufacturing technologies is its ability to produce parts at a faster rate than other conventional manufacturing techniques. This is especially beneficial for rapid prototyping, allowing a designer to hold a physical representation of their idea in a matter of hours. This enables businesses and manufacturers to identify potential issues and fix them quickly.
  • Reduced Cost – In most cases, additive manufacturing technologies will also reduce cost and expenses in a number of ways. For starters, the energy costs for machine operations are generally low, especially when you consider the quick production turnaround. 3D printing technology also helps to reduce the cost of materials and labor. But most importantly, it offers risk mitigation when it comes to the manufacturing workflow. By utilizing additive manufacturing technologies for rapid prototyping, businesses are able to observe and repair models before sending them off for final production. This greatly reduces the risk of unnecessary expenditures during the production process.
  • Increased Design Freedom/Complex Geometries – Another major pro that additive manufacturing technologies offer is immense design freedom and the ability to produce complex geometries. Due to the layer-by-layer process used with 3D printing technology, you’re able to achieve angles and shapes that are nearly impossible with other manufacturing techniques.
  • Accessibility – Each year, additive manufacturing technologies become more affordable and capable, thus making it increasingly accessible for a wider range of industrial uses. With this growth also comes increased knowledge and ease of use, meaning that a larger number of people will be able to integrate this technology into their workflow. The industry has blossomed over the past five or so years, leading to innovations and new technologies that will continue to make 3D printing the most exciting new manufacturing technique around.
  • Customization – One of the prized points of additive manufacturing technologies is the ability for mass customization. Since 3D printed parts are generally produced one at a time, this gives designers and businesses the ability to alter, modify, or customize their products as they see fit. Whether it’s the medical industry creating patient-specific surgical guides or a manufacturer producing personalized products, mass customization is one of the main selling points of additive manufacturing.
  • Sustainability – Another benefit to additive manufacturing technologies is sustainability. Compared to other techniques like CNC milling, 3D printing technology uses much less material waste. This also reduces the need to ship prototypes and products long distances. Now, digital files can be sent and produced anywhere with a 3D printer.

Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Cons

  • Material Limitations – One of reasons that additive manufacturing technologies are not always well suited for use-end production is because of material limitations. While this is an issue that is slowly being solved, the current line of professional 3D printing materials are lacking in mechanical properties. Since these objects are being built in layers, you will have weaker and less dense parts compared to CNC milling or injection molding. However, as the industry continues to advance, so do the material capabilities.
  • Size Limitations – Another disadvantage of additive manufacturing technologies is also size limitations. The size capabilities are limited to the build volume of the printer, meaning that you can not print beyond the preset limitations. Not only does this prevent the production of extremely large objects, but also an abundance of small prints at once.
  • Questionable Accuracy – If you’re looking to produce something that needs pinpoint accuracy, you will have to use additive manufacturing technologies with caution. Many materials will print within a erroneous margin of +/- 0.1 mm in accuracy. The 3D printing industry continues to advance in this regard, but be sure to check the accuracy of a machine before you invest in an industrial 3D printer or service.
  • Manufacturing Limitations – Although 3D printing has undeniable value in rapid prototyping applications, there are glaring limitations when it comes to manufacturing beyond that. While additive manufacturing technologies can help save money for prototyping and short-run productions, those advantages turn into disadvantages in terms of mass production. With techniques like injection molding and thermoforming offering faster and cheaper solutions for final products, 3D printing has not yet reached this level of potential.

Additive Manufacturing Technologies: In Depth

There are a number of different 3D printing processes that offer a variety of benefits and capabilities. Here are the most popular additive manufacturing techniques.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: In Depth Fused Deposition Modeling

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Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is perhaps the most popular and widely used form of additive manufacturing. The process is quite simple. A material, usually a polymer, is dispensed through a heated nozzle. The FDM printer builds the selected 3D model up layer-by-layer.

The nozzle component moves in horizontal and vertical directions using a numerically controlled mechanism called G-code. The extrusion head uses stepper motors or servo motors to automate movement.

Although the FDM process is typically restricted to printing with polymers, there are a wide range of compatible materials. These include ABS, PLA,  Polycarbonate (PC), Polyamide (PA), Polystyrene, as well as lignin, rubber, and many other material options.

Known as one of the most prominent forms of rapid prototyping, FDM printing is widely used for prototyping and rapid manufacturing. This technique is best utilized for iterative testing of functional prototyping and short-run manufacturing. In many cases, it’s a much more cost efficient solution compared to methods like injection molding.

FDM printing was originally developed in the late 1980s by S. Scott Crump. Shortly after, it was commercialized and patented by Stratasys, which remains one of the world’s leading additive manufacturing companies.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: In Depth Stereolithography/Digital Light Processing

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Stereolithography (SLA) and Digital Light Processing (DLP) are also popular additive manufacturing technologies. Although the printing output from these two technologies are similar, the inner workings of these processes are a bit different.

SLA technology uses two motors (aka galvanometers) to quickly aim a laser beam throughout a vat of photopolymer resin. The design is broken into a series of points, while the laser solidifies these points to create a 3D model. An elevator apparatus is used to lift the model layer-by-layer, which is covered with a fresh coating of resin. After the process is complete, the 3D printed model is immersed within a chemical bath to remove any excess resin. Finally, the design is cured in an ultraviolet oven, creating an incredibly smooth finish with high resolution.

The term “stereolithography” was coined in 1986 by Chuck Hull, the founder of 3D Systems, but the technology has been around since the 1970s.

Although similar, the DLP process uses a slightly different approach to photopolymer 3D printing. A digital projector screen flashes an image of the design on each layer. The model is projected across the entire platform at once. This image is composed of square pixels, meaning that each layer of the print is constructed of extremely small rectangular bricks called voxels.

With a slightly different process, there are differences in performance and benefits between SLA and DLP additive manufacturing. Since DLP technology projects the entire model at once, it’s generally capable of providing faster print times, especially when printing large objects.

However, SLA 3D printing is able to print high-resolution parts regardless of the build volume, making it more capable of manufacturing many detailed objects across the entire printing chamber.

Basically, SLA printers are advantageous when it comes to printing many small parts with intricate detail and complex large prints. DLP printers are ideal for producing one-off intricate parts and printing large parts without the need for high resolution.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: In Depth Selective Laser Sintering

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Selective laser sintering is the additive manufacturing process you should be looking towards if your goal is to produce metal objects. This technology uses a high powered laser to fuse small particles of material in a 3D model. This powdered material ranges from metals, plastics, ceramics, and glass.

Typically using a pulsed laster, SLS printers merges the material one layer at a time. After the first layer of the model is fused, the powder bed is lowered and a new coating of material is applied. This process repeats until the print is complete.

Since the object is always surrounded by powdered material, SLS has the ability to print objects without support structures. Additionally, a technique known as “nesting” makes the manufacturing of multiple parts less difficult and costly. Nesting is when a large number parts can be positioned to fill the entire build volume of the machine.

However, it’s important to note that SLS printing is impossible to manufacture a fully enclosed object that is hollow. The reason for this is that, without an exit point in the model, the powder material is trapped inside. Still, there are ways to get around this, such putting a hollow point in your model or printing a fully enclosed object in separate parts.

SLS was developed and patented in the 1980s by Dr. Carl Deckard and Dr. Joe Beaman at the University of Texas at Austin.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: In Depth Selective Laser Melting/Electron Beam Melting

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Considered a subcategory of the SLS process, selective laser melting also used a high-powered density laser to melt and bind grains of metal powders together. However, the additive manufacturing process is capable of melting metal material into a completely solid part.

By fully melting and liquefying the metal instead of just fusing the powder together, SLM printing can create homogeneous parts. This leads to less porosity and more control over the crystallization of the material, ultimately creating stronger parts.

The printing process transpires within a chamber that contains an atmosphere of inert gas. Each layer of the part is fused by selectively melting the powder with a high-powered ytterbium fiber laser. The laser beam is directed in both the X and Y directions with two high frequency scanning mirrors.

The energy of this laser is intense enough to weld the material particles together into a solid metal object. SLM is compatible with atomized materials that include copper, aluminum, stainless steel, toll steel, cobalt chrome, titanium, and tungsten.

Electron beam melting is a similar additive manufacturing method that uses an electron beam as the heat source. However, EBM usually offers a more efficient build rate because of its high-energy density and scanning method.

There are also metal wire based systems where an electron beam is used to melt welding wire to build a part. This process is more akin to FDM printing, but with metal wiring instead of plastic filament.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: In Depth Binder Jetting/Inkjet

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Binder jetting (aka inkjet) is an additive manufacturing technique that uses a liquid binding agent to connect powder particles together. The process uses a printhead the selectively drops this binder into the powder. This build area lowers down layer-by-layer, enabling the production of a full-on object with a mixture of powder and binder.

This type of technology is capable of printing a variety of metals, sands, and ceramics. Depending on the material, the print may or may not require post-processing. For example, metal objects manufactured with binder jetting can achieve greater density by using a hot isostatic pressing technique after printing.

The Binder jetting process is similar to 2D printing in that the binder acts like an ink that moves methodically across the layers of powder. Unlike other 3D printing techniques, binder jetting technology does not employ heat during the build process.

The advantages of binder jetting includes the ability to print large parts at a faster rate, while also being more cost effective than other additive manufacturing technologies.

Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Business Applications

As additive manufacturing technology continues to advance, so does the number of applications it can be used in. This emerging technology has already being used in a wide breadth of industries, from automotive to medical.

To give you a better idea of how 3D printing is being utilized on a professional level, here is an example of how the automotive, aerospace, medical, architecture, electronics, fashion, energy, and consumer goods sectors use additive manufacturing.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Business Applications Automotive

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The automotive industry has had one of the largest integrations of additive manufacturing technologies on an industrial level. From Formula 1 racing to manufacturers like Ford, 3D printing has emerged for prototyping and even end-use purposes.

Additive manufacturing has become a prominent tool for manufacturing tooling, jigs and fixtures, and even low-volume and customized production parts. For instance, Audi is integrating 3D printing technology to produce spare parts for cars. Meanwhile, Honda recently announced that they are using Mcor additive manufacturing to produce carbon fiber parts.

While larger manufacturers are slowly starting to utilize 3D printing in their automotive workflow, companies like Local Motors have fully embraced that additive manufacturing revolution. The Arizona-based manufacturer has developed a 3D printed electric car, proving the value of additive manufacturing technologies beyond prototyping and tooling purposes.

You can expect the automotive industry to continue integrating additive manufacturing technologies into the production process. Earlier this year, BMW was one of the main companies to invest in the desktop metal 3D printing company Desktop Metal. The startup is aiming to make metal 3D printing more affordable and accessible, something that the automotive sector will certainly find compelling.

To give you some perspective of this emerging technologies value, the market research publication SmarTech estimates that additive manufacturing in the automotive industry will generate a combined $1.1 billion dollars by 2019.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Business Applications Aerospace

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Similarly to the automotive industry, additive manufacturing has also seeped into the aerospace sector as well. The French aerospace company Airbus is pioneering this emerging technology, using 3D printing for a wide range of applications.

Airbus recently used additive manufacturing to produce an air nozzle prototype. By using 3D printing, the manufacturer was able to save space in the aircraft and increase passenger comfort.

Other military and aerospace entities like Lockheed Martin are also turning to additive manufacturing to speed up the prototyping and production process. Even the industrial giant General Electric has gotten into the aerospace 3D printing game. The company recent spent $1.4 billion to purchase Sweden’s Arcam AB and Germany’s SLM Solutions Group, both of which in 3D printing metal parts for jet engines and cars.

These applications are spreading across the aerospace sector. For example, Siemens, Strata, and Etihad Airways recently developed the first 3D printed aircraft interior in the Middle East.

Whether it’s 3D printing a jet engine or interior part for an airplane, additive manufacturing is a game-changer in the aerospace. Even beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, space agencies like NASA are heavily invested in 3D printing technology, looking to produce objects on the groundand also up in space.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Business Applications Medical

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Although additive manufacturing technologies have played a major role in industrial sectors, no field has been impacted by this technology quite like the medical industry.

There are numerous ways that 3D printing has revolutionized the medical and dental field. For starters, professional additive manufacturing systems are helping doctors train for intricate operations by producing patient-specific surgical guides. By using scans of patients and transforming them into 3D models, surgeons are able to plan for each surgery, increasing their success rate and reducing operation time.

Nothing is generating more buzz in the medical world as bioprinting. This type of 3D printing is allowing researchers to produce human tissue and are even making 3D printed human organs a plausible reality. Companies like Organovo and BioBots are continuing research on this use of 3D printing technology, which could become a major global breakthrough in the healthcare in the near future.

3D printing is even making its way into the bodies of humans. 3D printed patient-specific implants have become a promising alternative for those in need. By being able to quickly model and produce an implant that fits the patients needs, chances of recovery and operation time are greatly improved. Additive manufacturing has led to the creation of metal 3D printed hip implants, cranial implants, and more.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Business Applications Architecture/Construction

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Additive manufacturing technologies are also being increasingly used to create architectural models and construction projects.

In the architecture field, additive manufacturing systems that print in color, such as binder jetting, is extremely helpful in the production of architectural models.

For example, Stratasys’ PolyJet 3D printing can produce highly detailed models in an array of materials, including rigid photopolymers ready for painting. Additionally, as FDM 3D printing continues to advance, multi-color and multi-material capabilities are enticing to architectural firms looking to create models quickly and at a low price.

Additive manufacturing technologies have also become a major influencer in the construction sector. From the Russian company Apis Cor to the prestigious university MIT, there is a wide range of large-scale 3D printers that are capable of printing gigantic structures from materials like concrete. Although the technology is still very new to the construction sector, additive manufacturing has the potential to build houses that are more affordable and can be produced faster.

Don’t Miss: 33 Greatest 3D Printed Houses, Buildings & Structures in 2019


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Business Applications Electronics

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When you think of 3D printing technology, you probably think of objects made from thermoplastic or metal materials. But additive manufacturing technology is also being extended to the production of electronic circuitry.

Manufacturers like Optomec and Nano Dimension have developed systems for the production of multi-material PCBs. Even antennas, batteries, solar cell sheets, and radar systems are now considered to be 3D printable through extrusion and inkjet 3D printing technologies.

For example, Optomec’s Aerosol Jet printing technology produces 3D printed electronics using an additive manufacturing process that prints with conductive, dielectric, semiconductor, and biologic inks. These materials are extruded onto  plastic, ceramic, and metallic substrates, creating 3D printed electronics without the need for tooling, photomasks, or stencils.

When additive manufacturing first emerged, one downside was the inability to integrate electronics into an object during the printing process. But even this issue is being overcome with new processes and companies.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Business Applications Fashion

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The fashion industry has also integrated additive manufacturing technologies into the production of high-tech clothing, footwear, and more.

Both fashion students and professional fashion designers are utilizing additive manufacturing to produce clothing with complex shapes and unique materials.

Most of these creations are much more than a simple garment. Take a look at the Kinematics Dress for example, a 3D printed system created by Nervous System and Shapeways. The dress is composed of an impressive 2,279 unique triangular panels, 3,316 hinges, and was 3D printed as a single piece. By using 3D scanning technology, these types of garments can be tailor made to fit the body of users, expanding fashion capabilities further than they’ve ever gone before.

The growth of 3D printing technology is exemplified in the recent collaboration between the 3D printing startup Carbon and the sportswear company Adidas. Adidas is using Carbon’s revolutionary CLIP technology to print at an exceptional scale and speed, allowing them to produce over 100,000 pairs of sneakers by the end of 2018.

Other major footwear companies have also throw their hats into the ring, including New Balance, Under Armor, and Nike. Outside of athletics, 3D printing technology is also being used to create products for orthotic purposes. Companies like SOLS and Wiiv are providing customers with increased comfort and support through their 3D printed insoles.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Business Applications Energy

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Additive manufacturing is also making its way into the energy sector. Companies are using 3D printing to enhance wind power, solar, and nuclear power systems.

The global tech giant Siemens has been leading the way, using additive manufacturing to create gas turbines and also parts for nuclear power plants. We’ve seen 3D printing used to produce devices that collect solar power as well.

As 3D printing technology continues to expand and the need for renewable energy grows, you can expect to see this manufacturing technique used more and more in the energy sector.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Business Applications Consumer Goods

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As additive manufacturing technologies continue to advance and become more accessible, more and more businesses are using them to bring consumer goods to the market faster than ever.

One primary use by the consumer goods industry is to produce functional prototypes in materials that are able to withstand thermal, chemical, and mechanical stress. For complex or custom parts, you can also 3D print injection molds to use for larger-scale production.

The main advantage that additive manufacturing technologies offer this field is with rapid prototyping. While products usually take a hefty amount of time to develop and then redevelop once something goes awry, 3D printing helps to cut the production time and cost down immensely.

There’s definitely been a major uptick in 3D printed consumer goods, from 3D printed phone cases to DIY headphone kits.

Additive Manufacturing Technologies: The Best Companies

While the number of 3D printing manufacturers continue to grow, there are a few veteran companies that truly offer dependable machines coupled with seasoned experience. Depending on what additive manufacturing technique best suits your needs, there’s a variety of directions to look towards.

Here are some of the most well known and respected companies that offer industrial-level 3D printing systems.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: The Best Companies Stratasys

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Originally founded by S. Scott Crump back in 1989, the Minnesota-based company Stratasys has been in the 3D printing game for a lengthy amount of time. The manufacturer is primarily focused on providing office-based rapid prototyping and direct digital manufacturing solutions.

Crump is considered to be the inventor of FDM printing, and Stratasys has constantly been on the forefront of the professional additive manufacturing innovation. The company’s printers have been used across the automotive, aerospace, dental, and consumer goods market.

Stratasys breaks their products into four categories: Idea Series, Design Series, Production Series, and Dental Series. Each branch offers different capabilities and benefits, alongside a vast array of professional materials.

For instance, the Fortus 3D printing line is alluded for its industrial capabilities, particularly in regard to accuracy, repeatability, and predictability. This makes it an ideal machine for functional prototyping and manufacturing production parts like jigs and fixtures.

On the other hand, the Objet260 Connex3 is a PolyJet printer that offers color and multi-material production. This machine is ideal for situations where the either the color of an object, or the mechanical, optical, thermal properties of a material is critical.

The most recent addition to the Stratasys family is the F123 Series, a collection of three printers that conquer the entire prototyping workflow and are easy to operate. It’s essentially a plug-and-play printer for the professional setting, designed to maximize a company’s productivity and output.

Not only does Stratasys sell a massive range of industrial 3D printers, they also offer a manufacturing service in the form of Stratasys Direct Manufacturing. This service has everything from FDM printing to CNC milling, enabling companies to print parts on demand without having to invest in their own additive manufacturing machine.

Like most industrially-priced machines, those interested in a Stratasys printer must reach out for a quote.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: The Best Companies 3D Systems

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3D Systems is another seasoned company that has pioneered 3D printing innovation. In fact, founder Chuck Hull invented stereolithography back in 1986, and is considered by many to be the father of 3D printing.

Much like its competitor Stratasys, 3D Systems offers a wide range of 3D printers that tackle anything from metal additive manufacturing to full-color production.

Know for supplying end-to-end solutions, the Rock Hill, South Carolina-based company offers additive manufacturing systems tailored for aerospace & defense, automotive, healthcare, education, consumer goods, and more.

For instance, the ProX DMP line is a collection of metal 3D printers. This product range includes large-scale production printers and entry level dental metal printers, ensuring that each industry is covered.

The ProJet additive manufacturing systems offer professional 3D printed plastics in single-color or full-color.

More recently, 3D Systems developed the Figure 4, a scalable and fully-integrated additive manufacturing platform. According to the company, The Figure 4 platform produces plastic parts more than 50 times faster than other additive manufacturing systems, delivering lower total cost of operations.

With an entire line dedicated to the dental industry, 3D Systems has developed a strategy to serve certain industries with their additive manufacturing solutions.

As with Stratasys, you can visit the 3D Systems website to find more information on their printers and receive a quote.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: The Best Companies EOS

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While Stratasys and 3D Systems are two of the most well recognized additive manufacturing companies, they’re far from the only leaders. One of the best in the business is the German company EOS.

EOS offers additive manufacturing systems for plastics and metals. The company’s Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) technology is integrated into a wide range of platforms. These machines are capable of printing high-quality prototypes and end-use products out of metal.

With a primary focus on laser sintering technology, EOS provides an end-to-end solution that meets the needs of various industries. The P series consists of four plastic additive manufacturing system, while the M series includes six different metal 3D printing platforms.

From aerospace engine parts to jewelry production, EOS machines are highly regarded for manufacturing quality objects at low production costs.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: The Best Companies Other Companies

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While Stratasys, 3D Systems, and EOS are considered top players in the additive manufacturing industry, there are other prominent companies that offer industrial-grade 3D printing systems. Here are a few of the most popular!

EnvisionTEC – Since 2002, the company EnvisionTEC has pioneered the development of DLP 3D printing technology. Nowadays, the company offers more than 40 models of 3D printers that are based on six different additive manufacturing technologies. One of EnivisionTEC’s latest innovations is the Micro Plus cDLM technology, an enhanced version on their DLP technology. The process allows for continuous motion of the build plate, essentially enabling an even faster production process.

Concept Laser– One of the most renowned metal additive manufacturing companies is the Germany-based Concept Laser. Their LaserCUSING process uses a high-energy fiber laser to melt down metal material and solidifies it while keeping the mechanical properties intact. This technique also helps to reduce material waste and allows for the production of complex geometries.

Optomec- Optomec is another manufacturer of professional-grade additive manufacturing systems. They specialize in a wide range of industries from aerospace and defense to consumer electronics. The company is currently pushing the market forward by providing solutions that allow customers to print functional electronics like antennas and sensors onto a variety of devices.

voxeljet –  Yet another major additive manufacturing company from Germany, voxeljet specializes in Powder Binder Jetting technology. This process offers more size and speed, while also providing increased flexibility and productivity in the workflow.

ExOne – The additive manufacturing company ExOne offers professional-grade printing systems and also an on-demand printing service. Their production printers are among the largest systems available on the market. These additive manufacturing systems create complex sand molds, cores, and functional metal parts. ExOne claims that their printers can reduce lead times while also producing more complex geometries with improved accuracy and increased casting performance.

BigRep – The BigRep One 3D printer is a FDM printer that has a capacity of one cubic meter. This gigantic printer is designed for professional and industrial use, making it ideal for anything from furniture production to large-scale prototyping.

Sciaky –  Sciaky specializes in Electron Beam Additive Manufacturing (EBAM) technology. This metal 3D printing technology offers large-scale and high-value metal 3D printed parts. The company positions their additive manufacturing system as a faster and more affordable alternative to large-scale forgings and castings. Their patented Closed-Loop Control system enables the production of metal parts with enhanced properties and microstructures. Equipped with an EBAM dual wirefeed system, users can even combine two different metal alloys into one.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: The Best Companies Machines of the Future (Carbon, HP, etc)

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While the aforementioned companies certainly play a major role in the additive manufacturing industry, the newcomers are the ones pushing the technology to the next level.

Carbon- Although SLA/DLP 3D printing is already championed as a fast and high-quality printing process, the Silicon Valley startup Carbon is taking that to a new level with their CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production) technology. The M1 and newer M2 3D printers offer extremely high speed printing with remarkable repeatability. The company has also added automated post-processing technique to their workflow. By balancing light and oxygen, the CLIP process can quickly produce 3D printed parts from resin. Current customers include Ford, BMW, CIDEAS, Sculpteo, and many others.

HP – Yes, we know, HP is definitely one of the most widely known technology companies in the entire world, but their plan to enter the 3D printing market is a relatively new feat. Their Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer is gaining a lot of hype around the industry, and is expected to challenge injection molding. They also unveiled the new HP 3D Open Materials and Applications Lab, which will be used to develop materials for their additive manufacturing system. With the HP Jet Fusion 3200 and 4200 3D printers, users will be able to produce truly functional parts at an extremely fast pace. HP is also working on integrating full-color 3D printing in their system workflow. As the company that invented thermal inkjet printing, their entrance into the 3D printing market is among the most excitable news stories and widely anticipated products that the industry has seen thus far. Read more about their additive manufacturing technology here.

Desktop Metal: Perhaps the youngest company mentioned in the additive manufacturing overview, Desktop Metal is another startup that could revolutionize the 3D printing industry. Desktop Metal recently unveiled their first two 3D printers, the Studio System and Production System. Their ultimate goal is to make high-performance metal 3D printing more affordable and accessible. The Studio System uses their patented Bound Metal Deposition (BMD) extrusion process, which functions similarly to FDM 3D printing but with metal powders and a polymer mix. The Production System uses a process called “single pass jetting,” taking less than three seconds to print a single layer. While there’s a massive amount of potential in Desktop Metal’s technology, the company has just entered the game, and thus their contribution to the additive manufacturing market remains to be seen. However, we certainly have high hopes for them!

Additive Manufacturing Technologies: The Best 3D Printing Services

If your business isn’t ready to make an investment in a professional-grade additive manufacturing system, there’s a wide range of 3D printing services that will gladly print parts for you. At All3DP, we have our very own 3D Printing Service Price Comparison Engine, offering you the best prices from the three leading 3D printing service bureaus.

Here, we all offer a bit of information on each of these three 3D printing services, and also showcase a few others that deserve mentioning.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: The Best 3D Printing Services Shapeways

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With production facilities in both the Netherlands and New York City, the Dutch startup Shapeways has grown into a global hub for professional 3D printing services. Customers can order in a wide range of materials, from porcelain to aluminum. If you’re a business looking to achieve rapid prototyping or small batch production, you can use their business channels to get a more economically sound deal.

Shapeways has industrial printers from EOS, 3D Systems, Objet, Z-and Corp, offering selective laser sintering, binder-jet steel 3D printing, and wax casting. You can order prints in over 50 different materials, giving you a first-hand look at the capabilities of industrial-grade additive manufacturing technologies.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: The Best 3D Printing Services i.Materialise

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Another widely respected 3D printing service is the Belgium-based additive manufacturing service i.Materialise. The service offers 20 different materials in over 100 different color and finish combinations.

For more business-minded customers, the parent company Materialise has constructed a one-stop shop for industrial 3D printing technology. The additive manufacturing pioneers help offer advice on which process is best for your application, including laser sintering, SLA, FDM, metal 3D printing, ColorJet, PolyJet, Vacuum Casting, and even HP Multi Jet Fusion.


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: The Best 3D Printing Services Sculpteo

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The French 3D printing service Sculpteo is another dependable option for all your additive manufacturing needs. This service bureau offers both 3D printing technology and laser cutting, giving customers an extensive range of options to produce their prototypes or use-end parts. Sculpteo’s printing service includes SLS, Metal and Multicolor Binder Jetting, PolyJet, SLM, and even Carbon CLIP 3D printing. With a vast amount of materials at hand, Sculpteo has emerged as one of the top 3D printing services around.

Each of these services offer different benefits and prices, so be sure to check out our price comparison service to ensure you get the most bang for your buck!


Additive Manufacturing Technologies: The Best 3D Printing Services Other Services

Image of Additive Manufacturing Technologies: The Best 3D Printing Services: Other Services

3D Hubs– Recognized as the largest network of 3D printing services, 3D Hubs offers a selection of nearly 7,000 different online services, ranging from professional additive manufacturing to desktop FDM 3D printing. 3D Hubs will connect you directly with a service in your local area, enabling quick turnaround times. You can filter out services by materials, user rating, distance, and many other factors.

Xometry – Based in Maryland, the on-demand manufacturing company Xometry offers 3D printing, CNC machining, and other manufacturing techniques. The service is trusted by the likes of GE, NASA, MIT, and the U.S. Army. Xometry’s easy-to-use software platform provides instant information on pricing, lead times, and optimal processes to create your custom parts.

WhiteClouds – Known for being one of the largest full-color 3D printing services in the world, WhiteClouds is highly focused on B2B customers, working with various retailers and brands to produce anything from personalized action figures to medical models to health care professionals. This service uses industrial printers from 3D Systems and Stratasys.

FathomThe Oakland-based 3D printing service Fathom boasts a wide range of Stratasys 3D printers and high-quality post-processing techniques. With a focus on B2B customers, the 3D printing service also offers manufacturing services beyond additive manufacturing, coupling the technology with CNC Machining, Urethane casting, injection molding, and more.

There are many other professional 3D printing services to choose from. The best match for your idea or business will depend on the additive manufacturing technology and materials you need, the turnaround time required, the price, and more.

If you want to learn more about the best 3D printing services out there, check out our extensive list here: 2019 Best Online 3D Printing Services

Additive Manufacturing Technologies Conclusion

Image of Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Conclusion

In conclusion, as you can infer from our lengthy Additive Manufacturing Technologies Overview, there are a lot of factors to consider when looking to integrate 3D printing technology into your business or manufacturing workflow. The way that the industry is growing, it seems inevitable that additive manufacturing will continue to grow into a go-to prototyping and production method.

Most importantly, if you are interested in learning more about additive manufacturing technologies and which 3D printing system is best for your needs, do extensive research and look into various case studies that relate to your professional aspirations.

Additive manufacturing is a magnificent and revolutionary technology, especially on an industrial level. The sooner you can integrate it into your daily operations, the sooner your manufacturing capabilities and speed will increase, while production costs go down.

If you have any further questions on additive manufacturing technologies, comment them below and we’ll do our best to assist you. 

License: The text of "Additive Manufacturing Technologies: Introduction & Overview" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.