12 advantages of additive manufacturing and 5 disadvantages (2023)

Ambitiousmanufacturing companiesthose looking to advance their research and development could turn to additive manufacturing. In this article, we examine the different types of additive manufacturing, the advantages and weaknesses, and some industries that could benefit from additive manufacturing.

12 advantages of additive manufacturing and 5 disadvantages (1)

3D printing supports special products in small quantities

What is additive manufacturing?

Additive manufacturing (AM) is the process of adding substances to manufacture or create an object. While many believe AM is a relatively new technology, it has been around since the late 1980s. Additive manufacturing takes a transformative approach to assembly and industrial manufacturing. AM uses computer-aided design (CAD) software to control digital hardware that accurately creates detailed geometric shapes. By carefully depositing material layer by layer, AM enables the creation of lighter, stronger parts and systems that bring digital flexibility and efficiency to manufacturing operations.

7 categories of additive manufacturing

Commonly known as 3D printing and rapid prototyping, the terms refer to two of the independent processes that are subsets of additive manufacturing. There are seven different categories of additive manufacturing, these are:

1. Binderdüsen

Also known as 3D printing or powder bed and inkjet printing. Binder Jetting uses liquid materials that are printed onto thin layers of powder. Build up layer by layer and stick the particles together effectively. Metals, foundry sand and ceramics in granular form are commonly used in binder jetting. Used in a variety of applications e.g. B. in building large sand casting molds and producing inexpensive 3D printed metal parts.

2. Directional Energy Deposition

Directed Energy Deposition uses thermal energy to fuse metal and metal-based materials by melting the material as it is deposited. Also known as laser metal deposition, plasma arc melting, and direct metal deposition, it is used for low volume part manufacturing, rapid prototyping, and repair.

3. Materialextrusion

Material extrusion, also known as fused layer modeling or fused filament fabrication, uses polymer or composite continuous filaments to construct 3D parts. The material is pressed through an extruder nozzle, heated there and then applied layer by layer to the construction platform.

4. Material blasting

With material jetting, droplets of material are selectively applied to the build platform either continuously or as needed. The deposit is then cured by a heat source or ultraviolet light to form a 3D object. Also known as direct ink writing and multi-jet modeling, material jetting uses a process similar to that of a two-dimensional inkjet printer. Materials used in this process include polymers, waxes, composites and biological materials.

5. Powder bed fusion

The powder bed or multi-jet fusion process includes the various printing techniques of selective laser sintering and melting, direct metal laser sintering, electron beam melting and selective thermal sintering. High power thermal energy via a laser or electron beam is used to melt and selectively fuse material powders together.

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6. Sheet lamination

Sheet metal lamination is an additive manufacturing process in which thin webs of material are bonded together. Also referred to as selective coating lamination and the manufacture of laminated objects, sheets are typically fed via a roller system. They are then bonded together layer by layer to form a single sheet.

7. Vat photopolymerization

The earliest method of 3D printing, Vat photopolymerization, creates 3D objects using special resins called photopolymers. The liquid photopolymer is selectively cured by targeted UV light-activated polymerisation.

12 advantages of additive manufacturing and 5 disadvantages (2)

3D printing is increasingly used by manufacturers

12 advantages of additive manufacturing

The benefits of additive manufacturing are numerous, each of these individual additive manufacturing benefits also share some level of waste reduction and/or energy savings. The following are just a few of the many benefits of additive manufacturing:

1. Accelerated prototyping

AM accelerates product development by enabling the creation of many different prototypes that can be manufactured faster and cheaper compared to tedious traditional methods. Multiple prototypes can be printed before a production run is undertaken, leaving less room for error throughout the process. With AM, all changes to the original specification are made digitally, reducing the cost of change to achieve the desired result. Traditional design changes are generally more expensive to implement.

2. Customization

AM manufacturing offers design innovation and creative freedom without the cost and time constraints of traditional manufacturing. The ability to easily change original specifications means AM gives companies greater ability to offer custom designs to their customers. With the ease of digitally customizing the design, product customization becomes a breeze. Small production runs can then be easily adapted to specific needs.

3. Energy saving

In conventional manufacturing, machines and systems often require auxiliary tools that have a higher energy requirement. AM consumes fewer resources, requires fewer ancillary devices, and thereby reduces production waste. AM reduces the number of raw materials needed to manufacture a product. Therefore, less energy consumption is associated with the extraction of raw materials, andAM requires less energy overall.

4. Environmental Benefits

The environmental benefits of additive manufacturing are a benefit for companies looking to improve the sustainability of manufacturing.AM offers many positive environmental benefitscompared to traditional manufacturing. The most important of these are waste reduction and energy saving. Additive manufacturing processes are more efficient compared to traditional manufacturing and significantly reduce the environmental impact of waste products. AM offers greater material efficiency by only using what is needed to manufacture a product.

5. Inventory Reduction

AM can reduce inventory, eliminating the need to hold excess inventory and the associated storage costs. With additive manufacturing, components are printed on-demand, meaning there is no overproduction, no unsold finished goods, and a reduction in inventory.

    • Continue reading:Manufacturers, clean up your excess inventory!

6. Legacy-Tele

AM has given companies the ability to replicate impossible-to-find, discontinued core parts. For example, the restoration of classic cars has benefited greatly from additive manufacturing technology. Where older parts were once difficult and expensive to find, they can now be manufactured through scanning and x-ray analysis of original material and parts. Combined with the use of CAD software, this process allows for quick and easy reverse engineering to create legacy parts.

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7. Manufacturing and assembly

A key advantage of additive manufacturing is the ability to combine existing multi-part assemblies into a single part. Instead of creating individual parts and later assembling them, additive manufacturing can combine manufacturing and assembly in one process. Effective consolidation of manufacturing and assembly into one.

8. Material Waste Reduction

In conventional manufacturing processes, material is typically removed from a larger workpiece; Think of milling wood or cutting shapes from sheet steel. In contrast, AM starts from scratch and adds material to create a component or part. Because only the substance required to make that part is used, AM ensures minimal waste. AM also reduces the need for tooling, thus limiting the amount of material needed to manufacture components.

9. Part flexibility

Additive manufacturing is attractive to companies that need to create unusual or complex components that are difficult to produce using traditional methods. AM enables the design and creation of almost any geometric shape that reduces an object's weight while maintaining stability. Part flexibility is another important aspect of AM's waste reduction. The ability to develop products on demand inherently reduces inventory and other waste.

10. Parts Reliability

Small components and those with intricate parts or small moving parts typically require tight manufacturing tolerances and very controlled assembly processes. Additive manufacturing processes help to reduce the number of component defects andImprove part reliability. Additive manufacturing technology allows manufacturers to print entire components to precise tolerances. This improves part reliability and product quality.

11. Production flexibility

A key advantage of additive manufacturing is the ability of manufacturers to quickly switch between different products. This allows for an optimized supply chain and economical production batches without costly and/or time-consuming setup. This inherent made-to-order technology, with the flexibility to create short run orders, means manufacturers end up with less unsold product and less inventory waste.

12. Supply Chain Improvements

The benefits of additive manufacturing in supply chains take many forms. It reduces material waste, simplifies production processes and the on-demand production that additive manufacturing offers improves supply chain flexibility as the finished product can be manufactured close to the end user. AM improves process flexibility that enables supply chains to respond quickly to demand, reduces supply chain risk by providing a contingency plan, and helps reduce supply-related costs.

12 advantages of additive manufacturing and 5 disadvantages (3)

Is additive manufacturing right for your business?

5 disadvantages of additive manufacturing

1. Entry Costs

When it comes to additive manufacturing, the entry costs are still prohibitive for many organizations and especially smaller companies. The capital cost of purchasing the necessary equipment can be significant and many manufacturers have already invested significant capital in the plant and equipment for their traditional operations. The switch is not necessarily easy and certainly not cheap.

2. Production costs

The production costs are high. Materials for AM are often required in the form of exceptionally fine or small particles, which can significantly increase a project's raw material costs. Additionally, the inferior surface quality often associated with AM means additional costs are incurred for the surface finishing and post-processing required to meet quality specifications and standards.

3. Additional Materials

There is currently a limit to the types of materials that can be processed within AM specifications and these are typically pre-alloyed materials in a base powder. The mechanical properties of an end product depend entirely on the properties of the powder used in the process. All of the materials and features required in an AM component must be included in the mix early on. It is therefore impossible to successfully introduce additional materials and properties later in the process.

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4. It's slow

As already mentioned, additive manufacturing technology has been around since the 80s, but even in 2021 AM is still considered a niche process. This is mainly because AM still has slow build rates anddoes not provide an efficient way to scale operationsto produce large numbers of parts. Depending on the desired end product, additive manufacturing can take up to 3 hours to produce a shape that a traditional process could produce in seconds. Economies of scale are practically impossible to achieve.

5. Post-processing

Some post-processing is required with additive manufacturing as surface finish and dimensional accuracy can be of lower quality compared to other manufacturing processes. The layering and many interfaces of additive manufacturing can introduce defects into the product, requiring post-processing to address quality issues.

5 applications of additive manufacturing

Additive manufacturing has been on the rise technologically since the late 1980s and has seen widespread adoption over the past decade. While additive manufacturing applications will continue to grow, the benefits of additive manufacturing have already transformed the following five industries:


With some of the most demanding industry standards when it comes to performance, the aerospace industry was one of the first to adopt additive manufacturing. Commercial and military aerospace requires flight-ready components made from high-performance materials.

Common aerospace AM applications include air handling systems for environmental control systems, custom cosmetic aircraft interior components, rocket engine components, and combustor liners. Additive manufacturing helps deliver complex, consolidated parts with the increased strength required in the industry. With consolidated designs requiring less material and an overall weight reduction, a key factor for the aerospace industry.

consumer products

Marketing teams, designers, and graphic artists work to generate ideas and get products to market as quickly as possible while adapting to changing trends and consumer demand. Part of this process is spent simulating the look and feel of the final product.

AM has proven beneficial for the product development of many consumer products such as sporting goods and consumer electronics. Rapidly delivering detailed iterations early in the product development lifecycle with fine detail, functionality, and realistic aesthetics. As AM technology advances in speed and build volume, it is likely that more consumer products will turn to additive manufacturing for larger volume requirements.


The innovation of additive manufacturing in the manufacture of efficient, on-demand lightweight components has fueled success in the energy sector. The focus is on AM's ability to quickly develop custom components and eco-friendly materials that withstand extreme conditions.

Major AM applications that have developed in the gas, oil, and power industries include various control valve components, gauge pieces, turbine nozzles, rotors, flow meter parts, and pump manifolds. With the ability to develop corrosion resistant metal materials, AM has the potential to manufacture custom parts for use underwater or in other harsh environments associated with industry.


The rapidly innovating medical industry uses AM solutions to achieve breakthroughs in functional prototypes, surgical components and lifelike anatomical models. AM in the medical field produces advances in orthopedic implants and dental devices, as well as tools and instruments such as seamless medical carts, anatomical models, custom saw and drill guides, and custom surgical instruments.

Material development in the medical industry is critical as certified biocompatible materials potentially revolutionize areas of custom implants and life-saving devices and preoperative tools to improve patient outcomes.

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The transportation industry requires parts that can withstand extreme speeds and heat while being light enough to eliminate avoidable drag. The advantage of additive manufacturing in developing lightweight components has led to more efficient vehicles.

Many of the AM applications that are transforming the transportation industry include complex duct systems that cannot be manufactured using traditional methods, resilient prototypes, custom interiors, grilles, and large fairings.

AM technology will advance product design and on-demand manufacturing. As design software becomes more integrated and easier to use, the benefits of additive manufacturing will increase and significantly impact a growing number of industries.

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