Additive Manufacturing refers to a process by which digital 3D design data is used to build up a component in layers by depositing material. The term "3D printing" is increasingly used as a synonym for Additive Manufacturing. However, the latter is more accurate in that it describes a professional production technique which is clearly distinguished from conventional methods of material removal. Instead of milling a workpiece from solid block, for example, Additive Manufacturing builds up components layer by layer using materials which are available in fine powder form. A range of different metals, plastics and composite materials may be used.
The technology has especially been applied in conjunction with Rapid Prototyping - the construction of illustrative and functional prototypes. Additive Manufacturing is now being used increasingly in Series Production. It gives Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in the most varied sectors of industry the opportunity to create a distinctive profile for themselves based on new customer benefits, cost-saving potential and the ability to meet sustainability goals