Additive Manufacturing

What Is Additive Manufacturing?

Additive manufacturing refers to adding layer-upon-layer of material using data-driven automation to form a product. This is the opposite of machining, which relies on removing material to form a product. Additive manufacturing is sometimes called 3D printing, but is often associated more specifically with large-scale industrial production. Industrial additive manufacturing requires an integrated and digital workflow starting with design and simulation, and ending with the final part production. Additive manufacturing will have a revolutionary impact on manufacturing by enabling the production of increasingly complex designs, reducing materials waste and rapidly accelerating throughput.

Examples of Additive Manufacturing Technology and Software That Drives Them

Siemens NX provides all the functionality needed for you to create and produce designs for industrial-scale additive manufacturing. NX utilizes innovative technologies like Convergent Modeling, topology optimization, and integrated build processors to promote easy design, simulation, and production of additively manufactured parts. The evolution of 3D printing has progressed past rapid prototyping and is becoming a mainstream manufacturing process used by industries from aerospace and medical devices to energy and automotive.

Additive Manufacturing Technologies & Processes:
Designed To Give You More Control and Options Over The End Result

Additive manufacturing can be accomplished using various techniques like Binder Jetting and Laminated Object Manufacturing, but the technologies below are the most frequently used for 3D printing.

  • Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM):

    This process uses a spool of material (usually polymer based) and a heated deposition head. The head melts the filament to extrude the material in a long stream. This is the technology used in most low-cost desktop printers due to the affordability of the parts and readily available materials in filament/spool form. Software for multi-axis FDM was pioneered by Siemens in our NX solutions along with our partners. Our solution has been tested and improved over several generations and is the most robust platform for these types of operations.

  • Stereolithography (SLA):

    Stereolithography is one of the oldest additive manufacturing (AM) processes and uses liquid resins to create 3D objects. In most cases, the resins are cured using ultra-violet light. SLA printers are a somewhat different from other technologies in that the part is printed in the –Z direction. This means that each layer of the printed part, once solidified, is pushed down into the resin rather than being built in the upwards direction as with most other processes.

  • Powder Bed Fusion (DMLS, SLS, EBM), Polyjet/Multi-jet:

    Powder Bed Fusion is a term that describes many additive processes including metal additive manufacturing. All involve a bed of powdered material that gets fused together layer-by-layer in a planar fashion. This is done with multiple material types, both plastic and metal. There are a multitude of technologies used to fuse the powder material. The integrated nature of Siemens NX allows you to perform necessary tasks, such as 3D nesting of parts in the build tray or construction of support structures for PBF printing without data translations or using external software packages. The advantage to this is that as your part geometry changes through revisions, those downstream operations are automatically updated with little user interaction saving large amounts of design and setup time.
Additive Manufacturing Design model in NX

Additive manufacturing refers to adding layer-upon-layer of material to form a product.

Benefits of Additive Manufacturing (AM):

The benefits of additive manufacturing give it advantages over other manufacturing methods in specific use cases. 

  • Allows designers to have improved design freedom. While additive manufacturing still has certain design restrictions depending on the type of AM technology and material used (minimum wall thickness, maximum overhang) in general, designers have much more freedom to create unique and innovative designs.

  • Can allow companies to make parts on-demand. This means that the overhead associated with maintaining a warehouse of spare parts can be reduced or in some cases eliminated.

  • Allows companies to take full advantage of unique geometries like topology optimization and lattice structures. While unique geometry like that created by topology optimization was possible to produce with other manufacturing methods, many of these unique geometries reach their full potential when used with additive manufacturing as the production method.

  • Can reduce the lead time required to deliver parts to market. This is especially true when additive manufacturing is used to convert an assembly of parts into a single unit. Often, delivery of the manufactured part is faster than procuring and assembling the multi-part assembly.

Listen to our additive manufacturing podcast series

Listen to our additive manufacturing podcast series

Is your company ready for industrial-scale additive manufacturing?

In our new podcast series, we explore the hype, reality, risks and opportunities of industrial additive manufacturing and the Siemens Additive Manufacturing Network's role in jumpstarting ISAM.