3D Printing, Additive Manufacturing: Meaning and Advantages
On the web and in specialized magazines, we can find several synonyms associated with Additive Manufacturing, including 3D Printing and Rapid Prototyping. The meaning is the same: all terms describe this phenomenon. The only exception is Rapid Prototyping which, over the years, is beginning to find less use because it reflects the first activity with which this technology was associated.
Additive Manufacturing (AM) is, therefore, a revolutionary production approach that replaces the traditional subtractive production, promising to generate a meaningful industrial revolution in the coming years. It has all the characteristics to be defined as a disruptive technology and it is currently used in a stable way in the medical field and in most of the industrial sector.
3D technical design software (SolidWorks, Solid Edge) can be used to model the files, which are then processed by Slicing software to define the printing parameters. We will obtain, therefore, a G-Code that allows one to deposit the material in a controlled way and to obtain with precision the modeled component, avoiding waste during the production.
3D Printing proves to be very efficient compared to traditional industrial production as it is free from post-production activities such as cutting, finishing and affixing holes. In addition, the creation of the physical product is instantaneous, providing a significant advantage in terms of cost, time, energy and more.
THREE ADVANTAGES OF ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING
Additive Manufacturing offers several advantages that confirm its superiority:
- Custom Production
Full freedom of expression for designers, who can create customized products by simply modifying the file used for 3D design. From this comes great flexibility with the external environment, as well as the opportunity to respond promptly to changing customer needs.
- Limitless Design
Complexity becomes a negligible consideration in the realization phase, but it can generate significant economic benefits. Indeed, creating a complex product is more economically viable than creating a simple form.
- Lighter, Stronger, and more Complete Components
Production should consume only the resources that are needed for product creation. This is not the case in the traditional manufacturing of subtractive technologies, which is characterized by wasted resources and raw materials. Moreover, the production of complex components requires several activities and the realization of accessory components, which have a significant impact on costs and product characteristics.
Thanks to Additive Manufacturing, all this is a distant memory. The freedom of design and realization gives you the possibility to revolutionize your production processes, creating a product in a single print.
“FFF” ADDITIVE MANUFACTURING TECHNIQUE
Over the years, there have been several Additive Manufacturing techniques and the differences between them lays in the ability to deposit material layers and in materials to be used.
Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF), also known as Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), is an Additive Manufacturing methodology belonging to the group of material extrusion processes. It involves creating objects by depositing fused material, layer by layer.
To date, it is undoubtedly the most efficient technique both considering the minimal initial investment and operation-related expense. It is also known to be simple to use and easy to understand the mechanics of operation.
It has proven to be reliable, accurate and capable of producing high quality components, so much so that it is implemented and preferred by both large manufacturing companies, design houses, educational institutions, and university hubs.
The procedure of the FFF technique can be briefly summarized in three steps:
- The applied material is collected in a spool that is loaded into the printer. When the extruder has reached the desired temperature, the material filament is heated and deposited onto the print bed.
- The extruder of the 3D printer is joined to a 3-axis system that allows it to move in the direction expressed in a Cartesian plane (x, y, z). The fused material is deposited layer by layer, where it cools and solidifies with the help of a fan.
- The steps are repeated, layer by layer, until the object is the same as shown in the 3D file.
Furthermore, one of the most appreciated strengths of the FFF technique is the possibility to use a wide range of materials, which differ in mechanical properties and cost.