Additive Manufacturing the rise of metals in 3D printing

Additive manufacturing is one of the advanced techniques of Industry 4.0 that can manufacture industrial products faster and more precisely as compared to traditional manufacturing processes. Also known as 3D printing, it is a technique that works by turning a digital model of an object into a three-dimensional physical item by adding printable materials layer by layer on its digital design. It helps create complex geometrical patterns that are not possible with traditional manufacturing methods, designing and making lighter components, and controlling various material properties such as density and stiffness. 3D printing has gained popularity rapidly, involving minor prototype construction, fewer dies, and less post-processing. The aerospace and defense industry is experiencing large-scale use of 3D printing with French company Thales Group started a global center of expertise in additive manufacturing in Morocco in 2017. Boeing created its first 3D printed metal satellite antenna for the Israeli company Spacecom in 2019. Airbus used the technology to manufacture the titanium 3D printed bracket on an in series production A350 XWB commercial aircraft in 2017 and has since announced plans to develop 3D printed drones.
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Additive Manufacturing: The past and the prominence of 3D Printing

Manufacturing and construction have witnessed significant reforms in a fast-changing world. Newer processes, machines are coming up with more unique means of operation, management, and increased efficiency. Remember, time is a valuable asset in today’s world.

Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, is a computer-operated approach to construction and industrial production.

Additive manufacturing is a computer-operated and controlled system that creates three-dimensional objects by carefully sequentially depositing various material compositions in layers.
A comprehensive digital layout is fed as design data, and the machine operates accordingly. Additive manufacturing is mainly used for making rapid prototypes and forging complex geometric objects.
The other names for Additive Manufacturing are 3D printing, Additive Layer Manufacturing.

Working Principle

Conventional methods employ lengthy processes which are time-consuming and prone to errors. Traditional methods of creating an object include material removal through machining, milling, carving, shaping, etc.

Additive manufacturing brings in more pro-manufacturing method that differs significantly from subtractive, conventional manufacturing methods.

For example, while the conventional method involves milling a work object from a solid block, additive manufacturing forges the part layer by layer from fine powders fed as materials. Things such as various metals, polymers, and composite materials can be used for 3D printing. The operational directives are provided by computer-aided design (CAD) data or 3D scanners that drive the machine in precise geometric patterns to deposit materials layer by layer.

The primary constituents of additive manufacturing technology are:

  • Computer
  • Computer-Aided Design or CAD software
  • Machine equipment
  • Layering material

Once the CAD data is lodged in, the computer guides AM machine to read the CAD data and lay down layer upon layer of various materials, usually in powdered & liquid form, to create a 3D object as intended.

In simple terms, additive manufacturing works like an “aircraft on autopilot.”

Commercialization of 3D printers

Additive manufacturing is not an archaic process, but rather, it came up in the ’80s. Here is a point-by-point history of AM in chronological order:

The 80’s:

The first commercial use of additive manufacturing with stereolithography from 3D Systems. The SLA-1 was the first commercially released AM machine. Ciba-Geigy partnered with 3D Systems for SL material development and commercialized acrylate resins. DuPont’s Somos stereolithography machine also entered the market in the same year. Japan’s NTT Data CMET and Sony/D-MEC commercialize stereolithography.

The 90’s:

Germany’s Electro-Optical Systems sells the first stereolithography system. Quadrax introduces Nark 1000 SL system. Three AM technologies, fused deposition modeling (FDM) from Stratasys, solid ground curing (SGC) from Cubital, and laminated object manufacturing (LOM) from Helisys, were commercialized. Selective laser sintering (SLS) and Soliform stereolithography system from Teijin Seiki were commercialized. Soligen commercialized direct shell production casting (DSPC), which used an inkjet mechanism. This year saw a bunch of new additives manufacturing systems. ModelMaker from Solidscape, Solid Center from Kira Corp., or EOSINT by EOS were examples. This year saw 3D Systems sell its first 3D printer called Actua 2100 that used an inkjet printing mechanism that deposited wax materials layer by layer. AeroMet was founded as a subsidiary of MTS systems corp. The company developed a laser additive manufacturing (LAM) process that used high-power laser and titanium alloys. Optomec commercializes laser-engineered net shaping (LENS).

The early 2000’s:

This year saw the emergence of new technologies. Quadra by Object Geometries, Sanders Prototype (now Solidscape) by PatternMaster, and Z402C machine by Z Corp. (World’s first commercially available multi-color 3D printer). Generis GmbH from Germany introduced its extensive GS 1500 system. ProMetal installed its first RTS-300 machine in Europe. Stratasys sells its Dimension product for $29,900. Solidscape introduced the T66 product while Phenix Systems of France sold Phenix 900 system for the first time. Later on, Stratasys signs an agreement with Arcam to be the exclusive distributor in North America for electron beam melting (EBM) systems. Dimension 1200 BST, NanoTool, InVision DP, Accura 60 photopolymer, Formiga P 100 laser-sintering system, SEMplice LSM, V-Flash 3D printers, ZPrinter 450, A2 electron Beam melting machine were some of the groundbreaking AM machines introduced in the early 2000s.

The late 2000’s:

EuroMold, SLM Solutions present SLM 280 HL. CRP Technology announced Windform GF 2.0, while 3D Systems unveiled a smaller 3D printer, the ProJet 1000, for $10,900. In 2012, MakerBot released the MakerBot replicator. EasyClad from France introduced the MAGIC LF600 AM machine in 2012. Solidoodle from NY released Soldoodle 3D printer wild Belgium based Materialise introduced Magics 17. The late 2000’s So the growth of additive manufacturing and the 3D printing machine market. The AM or 3D printing Industry witnessed massive investment. In September 2013, Voxeljet announced its $100 million IPO plan. In March 2015, ExOne released Exerial, a large machine with multiple stations to enable continuous production. Early 3D printers were not very light and convenient to handle. It is only after the advent of the 21st century that they have become more affordable, straightforward, easy to operate, and versatile enough to be used in a wide range of operation ranging from tools & Page 4 of 1 component manufacture, electronics, metalwork, polymers, and product prototypes. Past three years, there has been a tendency to employ 3D printing and AM tech in the real estate industry.

We can see how fast Additive manufacturing emerged within just three decades and how it is relevant across multiple industrial verticals today. Whether it is about building prototypes, constructing affordable housing or producing components, AM and 3D printing have offered effective systems that triumph over traditional methods.
This technology enables faster product development and market entry, smoother product customization, and seamless integration at lesser cost and time. Thus, additive manufacturing provides OEM manufacturers an excellent opportunity to unleash their products at a higher rate at much lesser expenses for great returns and better customer benefits while ensuring sustainability.


Wohlers, T. and Gornet, T., (2016). History of additive manufacturing, Wohlers Report 2016. Retrieved from

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How Artificial Intelligence and 3D Printing can collaborate

With every individual looking for a custom product designed especially for him/her, more and more companies are now offering Mass Customization to satisfy the needs of their customers.

At a high level Mass Customization can be categorized into two broad areas,

B2B Mass Customization

B2C Mass Customization

Mass Customization essentially means offering customers what they want, rather than what the organization has to offer them. It creates a huge differentiator in the minds of customers, both B2B and B2C.

Mass Customization is achieved by using web based tools like Product Configurators which achieves Customization yet resulting in savings in cost.

This is how it works.

Configure: The Product Configurators present a simple user interface to the customers to try out various options by changing parameters and selecting different options, to suit their specific requirements. Once they are satisfied, they can often preview their selections in the form of a 3D model.

Instant Quote: The quote generation system is linked to the Product Configurator helping customers with instant quotes for the selections that they make.

Ready to Manufacture: The Product Configurator can generate all the details like manufacturing drawings required by the manufacturing/assembly team without manual intervention

Level of automation at each step depends on the complexity of the product and the nature of the sales cycle. For simple products (typically B2C) it can be completely automatic and for complex products (typically B2B) it can be semi-automatic. Even for B2B products, the semi-automatic process greatly improves the productivity of the sales team and the design team.

At a B2B level Product Configurator are seen in many diverse industries ranging from Cranes & Hoists, Material Handling and Storage, Pumps, Valves, Bearings, etc. The benefits it offers are,

  • Shorter Sales Cycle because of quicker and accurate quotes to prospects
  • Shorter Delivery Cycle because of quicker and accurate data to manufacturing team
  • Convert more prospects into customers, with quicker response and sharing relevant CAD data
  • Improve the efficiency of Sales and Design team
  • Better understanding of customer’s needs

At a B2C level use of Product Configurator is seen in variety of sectors like laptops, apparels, shoes, jewellery, houses, furniture etc. The advantages for a B2C model are,

  • Differentiation through personalization
  • Satisfying the needs of the customers by delivering what they want
  • Reduced capital because of reduced inventory
  • Customer loyalty


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