What’s the Difference Between Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing?

Any industry that is growing rapidly is going to attract more than its share of controversy. With a forecast growth rate of 28.5% between 2016 and 2022, according to MarketsandMarkets, the business of producing parts is no exception. One of the hottest issues at the moment is simply what do we call it – 3D printing or additive manufacturing? Or are both terms valid for different segments of the market? Or do they mean the same thing?

What are industry experts saying about 3D printing versus additive manufacturing?

Mark Allinson in Robotics and Automation News: They essentially mean the same thing. The only difference is that 3D printing is used more by maker communities while additive manufacturing is preferred in industry circles.

Duncan Wood at TCT Magazine: 3D printing is a good simple cover-all term for newbies, non-engineers, consumers and makers. However, if you are selling a £500,000 machine that produces metal parts for industrial applications then you need to be talking manufacturing.

ITEC blog: People in the industry generally prefer additive manufacturing while the general public generally prefers 3D printing. Defining a difference between the two is like splitting a filament.

Joris Peels at Luxexcel blog: Because the term 3D printing appeals to journalists it is used incorrectly to describe any and all 3D printing technologies as well as the industry as a whole. The correct term is actually additive manufacturing as defined by the ASTM 42 subcommittee on Additive Manufacturing.

The Technology House blog:  There is no difference between the terms 3D printing and additive manufacturing. But people who working in an industrial or manufacturing setting prefer additive manufacturing while the media and hobbyists prefer 3D printing.

Todd Grimm at Engineering.com: 3D printing is the popular term when describing processes that make objects additively. There is no difference between 3D printing and additive manufacturing.

There you have it. The experts have spoken and, no surprise here, they disagree. But in spite of some differences in approach and semantics, a common thread emerges. The borderline between 3D printing and additive manufacturing is hazy – hazy enough that many industry experts believe we can safely ignore it.

But there is agreement even between those who do and those who do not recognize the distinction, that 3D printers are associated with the end of the spectrum that applies to hobbyists and production of conceptual prototypes while additive manufacturing is applicable to the side of the spectrum involving building functional prototypes and production parts.

Affordable production quality 3D printers for additive manufacturing

So if you want technology that is inexpensive and easy to use then you need 3D printing while if you are looking for the ability to produce rigid, tough, accurate parts that are suitable for functional testing or use in production then you need additive manufacturing. It’s really that simple. But what if you want both? 3D Printing and Additive ManufacturingA new breed of – take your pick: 3D printer or additive manufacturing system – is emerging that can produce parts with the mechanical properties needed to fulfill the requirements of the complete product development process including concept verification, design validation and functional testing while also providing ease of use and an affordable price.



The new Stratasys F123 series 

A printer such as the Stratasys F123 solution can quickly create parts from different materials such as PLA, ASA, ABS and PC-ABS to evaluate different materials during the design process. The durability of engineering grade plastics makes it possible to perform functional testing. This professional class printer uses a unique soluble support material that enables more complex designs such as thinner walls and internal cavities. Uniform airflow and temperature control throughout the build area enables printing of parts in a variety of densities from sparse to solid fill modes without the risk of curling.

Stratasys F123 series printers are also designed for ease of use from initial setup through the design-to-print workflow.  The printers employ a plug-and-play architecture, with automatic setup and test functionality. Once the printer is powered up and completes these steps, it’s ready to use. There’s no need for a special technician dedicated to printer operation and maintenance. Fisher Unitech ensures your success by providing telephone support, software releases and updates, free exchange of parts, instructions/guidance for installation of replacement parts, and on-site service calls as needed.


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