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Exploring the Types of Additive Manufacturing: A Complete Guide

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a process that creates a three-dimensional object by depositing material in layers. Unlike traditional manufacturing methods of subtracting material from a larger block or mold, additive manufacturing starts with nothing and builds up the object one layer at a time. This foundational principle of additive manufacturing underscores the diversity of types of additive manufacturing, each offering unique advantages for producing complex shapes and objects with intricate internal structures, such as electric vehicle fuel cells. This process allows for far greater flexibility in design, opening up new possibilities across various applications.

The Impact of Additive Manufacturing Across Industries

The concept of additive manufacturing is already used in various industries, from aerospace to healthcare, revolutionizing how we make things. For example, fuel cell technology, customized implants, and even zero-emission vehicles are all now created using some form of additive manufacturing. By understanding the different types of additive manufacturing and how each process works, you can better decide which is the best choice for your particular project or application.

Types of Additive Manufacturing Processes

Binder Jetting

Binder jetting is a process in which material is deposited layer by layer and held together using a binder material. This technique can produce parts at high speeds and is often used to print large objects. The material used in binder jetting can be plastic, sand, metal powders, or other materials. This is one of the more affordable additive manufacturing methods due to its speed and inexpensive materials.

Directed Energy Deposition (DED)

DED is a thermal management process in which metal powders are melted and deposited onto a base material using an energy source, such as a laser or electron beam. This allows for precise control over the printed object’s shape and size. DED is often used to build up existing parts or components to repair or strengthen them.

Material Extrusion

Material extrusion is a process in which material is pushed through an extrusion nozzle, layer by layer, to form a three-dimensional object. This is a prevalent type of additive manufacturing and can be used to create objects with complex geometries. Some popular materials for extrusion include thermoplastics, waxes, and even liquid clay.

Powder Bed Fusion (PBF)

PBF is a process in which powder is spread over a bed and then fused together using an energy source. This thermal management technique can be used to create objects with complex geometries and is often used to print metal objects. PBF can also produce parts with intricate internal structures that would otherwise be impossible to create.

Vat Photopolymerization

Vat photopolymerization is a process in which a light source, such as a laser or projector, cures the liquid resin. This technique produces objects with high resolution and fine detail, which makes it ideal for creating intricate parts, such as jewelry or medical implants.

Sheet Lamination

With sheet lamination, thin layers of material are cut to shape and then bonded together using an adhesive. A laser cutter is typically used to cut any excess material and refine the object’s shape. This process creates objects with complex shapes composed of different materials. It’s also a relatively inexpensive method of additive manufacturing.

Material Jetting

This process builds an object by layering material. The adhesive is not necessary when you utilize material jetting. Instead, it melts wax-like materials to create precise droplets that are then deposited on the build platform. The more that is deposited, the more complex and intricate the object becomes. This process is particularly popular for printing prototypes or objects that may not be produced with other methods.

Choosing the Right Additive Manufacturing Process

With the myriad of additive manufacturing processes available for creating three-dimensional objects, selecting the most suitable one requires careful consideration. Each technique has its unique set of strengths and limitations, making it crucial to assess your project’s specific requirements closely. Factors such as material selection, desired structural integrity, surface finish, and production scalability play significant roles in this decision-making process. 

The versatility of additive manufacturing extends from creating intricate parts for hydrogen-powered vehicles to producing custom, patient-specific medical implants. Understanding the nuances of each process can significantly impact the success of your project, enabling the creation of innovative solutions that were once deemed impossible.

Mott specializes in custom 3dp metal parts utilizing Powder Bed Fusion (PBF).  This method allows us to create filtration devices with increased surface area and decreased wall thickness achieving incredibly low pressure drops.  It also allows Mott to generate multi-porous structures and porous-to-solid components in a single run, optimizing the design process.

To learn more about the benefits of additive manufacturing, contact the experts at Mott.