3D printing and additive manufacturing are terms that are, today, frequently used synonymously to denote a group of additive processes that produce – or print – parts directly from 3D CAD data, one layer at a time.
These additive processes have emerged and been greatly developed during the last 25 years and have proved advantageous for a host of applications including concept models, functional prototypes, tooling patterns and, more recently, production parts. Other terminology that can be used to describe these processes includes Rapid Prototyping, Additive Layer Manufacturing, Digital Manufacturing and Freeform Fabrication.
In contrast to traditional prototyping and manufacturing methodologies, additive processes build parts layer by layer, at the micron level, to achieve the required shape. This, in turn, has opened up new possibilities in terms of realising more complex shapes – in a single model – eliminating the need for multiple parts and their assembly. From the earliest origins of the technology, when additive processes were more limited in terms of accuracy, repeatability and material characteristics, ongoing improvements now mean that some of the processes can be utilised to build final production parts.
In particular, for low volume, high value applications additive manufacturing can offer a viable and economic alternative to traditional methods of manufacture, which require machining or expensive tools. Working extensively with additive technologies for many years has brought a depth of understanding to the team at Ogle in this area, enabling them to find the right solution for every individual client. However, the additive processes are not regarded as a replacement technology for traditional ways of working, rather, they provide a valuable alternative – often fulfilling applications that could not be made in any other way.