Additive manufacturing refers to a process whereby three-dimensional (3D) model data is used to join materials to make 3D objects. This is alternatively known as freeform manufacturing and includes many subsets, of which 3D printing is only one. Others include Rapid Prototyping (RP), Additive Fabrication, Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM) and Layer Manufacturing. Hence, additive manufacturing is not a synonym for 3D printing. Instead, additive manufacturing refers to a modern method of manufacturing an object.
Traditionally, manufacturers adopted a subtractive approach to making items. This meant that an item was built using a large block of material such as plastic or metal. During the manufacturing process, the material will be cut, hollowed, and various other mechanisms will be used to remove certain parts of it until the object in question is made. Thus, as indicated by its name ‘subtractive’, it eliminates parts throughout the process. Additive manufacturing, by contrast, refers to adding layers to a 3D object at a time. Unlike subtractive manufacturing, which has a complete tangible item at the start, additive manufacturing has nothing, building each layer by depositing material as per the digital 3D design data. The subtractive form of manufacturing is still widely used, although additive manufacturing is regarded as a far more feasible form of making an item today.
The most significant advantage of additive manufacturing is that it speeds up the production process in addition to its faster entry into the market. Moreover, this form of manufacturing costs much lower and requires less material, letting manufacturers customise items with close to no errors while saving overall costs. Since no material is unnecessarily removed from the item, it is also a sustainable manufacturing approach.
How Does Additive Manufacturing Work?
A 3D modelling software, also known as ‘Computer-Aided Design (CAD)’, is used to produce a sketch of an item. Additive manufacturing then uses this data to start manufacturing a product. This is done by adding a powder-like substance to make a thin layer on the building platform. Alternatively, other forms of feedstock such as filament or wire can be used instead of power. The powder is then melted according to the computer-generated design data. Afterwards, the second layer of powder is added by lowering the construction platform, and this is once again melted according to the design data. This process is repeated until the three-dimensional object is formed, with each material layer connecting to the previous. This was initially used for rapid prototyping by making visual and functional prototypes. It has, however, subsequently evolved to make end-user products in healthcare, automotive, aerospace, and various other industries.
Why Do Additive Manufacturing and Sustainability Go Together?
As the manufacturing industry requires vast amounts of energy to perform its functions, manufacturers struggle to carry out their operations sustainably. Since subtractive manufacturing is still commonly practised, with the increased risk of climate change, futuristic manufacturers should consider shifting to sustainable manufacturing. Here is why additive manufacturing is the more sustainable option and how it reduces energy:
Less Noise Equals Less Energy
Anyone entering a manufacturing factory is all too familiar with its sounds. The amount of energy required to carry out one procedure can be inferred by the amount of noise it produces. The subtractive manufacturing method, for instance, includes noises made from cutting, drilling and the various other functions it adopts to form the item. The louder the noise, the higher the possibility of energy being wasted. Since a lot of energy is required to produce a loud noise, where there is less or no noise, only low levels of energy are produced. In this regard, forms of additive manufacturing, including 3D printing, are extremely quiet, with barely any sound emitted. Other than maybe feeling an inaudible buzz of the laser beam melting the powder, watching the procedure can be as therapeutic and noiseless.
Lighter The Object, The Better It Is For The Environment
Additive manufacturing has proven to produce lighter products. This is because it utilises the essential materials in the best way possible. It does not get heavy with unnecessary materials being added, only for some of them to be removed from the manufacturing process, as witnessed by the traditional method. According to Mikael Schuisky, the Operating Manager of Additive Manufacturing at Sabdvik, the additive approach uses 95 per cent of the power for the production process, whereas the remaining is recycled. In contrast, subtractive manufacturing will remove chunks of material which, although recycled at times, will nevertheless have a higher carbon footprint since larger and heavier material has to be transported.
Avoid Waste By Meeting The Consumer's Wishes More Accurately
While certain products can afford to meet the general demands of all consumers, some products may differ according to the consumer’s needs. Instead of wasting resources by purely producing general products, making room and giving the consumer options to customise is a great way to boost the sales of a factory and is a more feasible approach in terms of sustainability. Not only will this mean that the entire product will benefit the consumer, but machine emissions released for unnecessaray parts made can be completely removed. In other words, manufacturers can opt to print products on-demand, thereby manufacturing exactly what the consumer needs. Through this, there is less overhead, not requiring warehouse managers to store enormous amounts of inventory. Moreover, with additive manufacturing, manufacturers can have more control over product quality at every stage, ensuring zero-waste.
Cerexio Has Always Followed a Sustainable Approach to Manufacturing
Cerexio is one of the leading digital solutions providers in the manufacturing industry and is an unrivalled innovative vendor that has incorporated the latest technologies in the additive manufacturing field. Our solutions have been recognised as the best in Asia and hold a prominent place on the world stage as a vendor that utilises industry 4.0 technology for manufacturers. By infusing 3D or 4D prototyping methods, manufacturers can move away from traditional practices and become sustainable leaders in the industry. Connect with our innovation experts and field specialists to understand how you can infuse modern additive manufacturing solutions into your manufacturing factory and establish a futuristic settlement.
Contact Cerexio to learn more about additive manufacturing and to make a bold transition to a sustainable form of manufacturing.
Better Now Than Never ...
The manufacturing industry has been a fast-evolving field, rapidly integrating technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things, Digital Twins, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and more. Each of these complex solutions has a unique role and is meant to help manufacturers streamline, automate and maintain their company processes efficiently. Similarly, additive manufacturing is meant to help futuristic manufacturers to adopt a new form of prototyping items that makes three-dimensional objects of the product in question. This reduces the energy, resources and costs of an item made compared to a product manufactured by a subtractive approach. It is never too late to transition to a greener, more sustainable form of manufacturing with industry 4.0 technology today. Take a leap of faith and join the few innovative manufacturers bold enough to save the environment whilst charging ahead.