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What is Additive Manufacturing?

What is additive manufacturing, and how is it similar to the processes which use MIG welding gas and TIG welding gas for shielding? This article will explain what additive manufacturing is, how it works, and why gas is integral to its functioning.

Three dimensional printing machine, additive manufacturing

What is Additive Manufacturing?

The term additive manufacturing is a fancy way of referring to 3D printing, and it is rightly dubbed as the future for manufacturing. 3D printing will be reducing costs and production times for parts in all sorts of industries, from oil to gas – additive manufacturing is the way forward.

Currently, those who are enthusiastic but still a little unsure about the future of additive manufacturing have implemented these printing machines as aids to help with prototyping, but in some industries, 3D printing machines are used for mass production too.


How Does Additive Manufacturing Work?

The term ‘additive manufacturing’ came from the process involved. There are two contrasting types of manufacturing; the first and most popular of the two we’re mentioning here is subtractive manufacturing. In subtractive manufacturing, the individual begins with a block of material and chips away at the block until only the final product remains.

Additive manufacturing works by building a product one layer at a time, and it began in the 1980s as a means of creating prototypes extremely quickly. These prototypes were not created to be functional, but to offer crucial insight towards the dimensions of the final product.

In contrast to when additive manufacturing was used exclusively for prototypes, it is also used for high volume production in some modern industries. Some key moments in the history of additive manufacturing include the world’s first 3D printed organ (a bladder in 1999) and a splint that saved a baby’s life in 2013. In recent news, the aeroplane company, Boeing, began using 3D printed titanium parts in some of their planes.

The main advantage of additive manufacturing is the speed at which products can be created. From the conception of an idea, the product only has to be input into a digital design software program before you can test it by printing it. This saves companies a lot of money and time, making it crucial for the future of manufacturing.


Industries Benefiting from 3D Printing

The precision afforded by 3D printing has been of great benefit to the medical sector. As previously mentioned, 3D printing has made organs and saved lives, and we can only imagine where the future will take it. It’s also more cost-effective for producing smaller volumes of products. Traditional manufacturing usually requires adding new parts to a machine to get it to make the required product, which is an added expense that needs to be paid off. 3D Printing, on the other hand, doesn’t need special new parts and can get to work straight away.

3D printer and hamburger, concept for food printing.


Issues with Additive Manufacturing

Unfortunately, 3D printing machines are very expensive, as is the way with all new technology, but it can also be expected that as more companies and people invest in 3D printing machines, the more available and efficient they will become.

Some people believe that additive manufacture won’t be overtaking traditional large volume production scales anytime soon, but instead, the two methods will work in tandem. For small volumes, additive manufacturing is more cost-effective. If the product reaches higher demands, then it may make sense to switch to traditional manufacturing until demand dries up again.

How Is Gas Used in Additive Manufacturing?

Gas plays an important role in 3D printing metal shapes, too. When 3D printing metal, the printer starts with a metal powder that is fused into the required shape during the printing process, but before the powder even reaches the machine, it is important that it remains in good condition. This is to ensure that no faults enter the final product as a result of mishandling the metal powder. For this reason, the transport of the metal powder used in 3D printing uses gas to maintain the powder metallurgy during transport and storage.

In the printing process itself, it is also important that the metal fusing is carried out in an enclosed space with a constant and measured environment. This will ensure consistency between prints. We offer argon gas bottles that can be used to adjust the environment of 3D printing machines. Argon is used because it is an inert gas that reduces oxidation and renders combustible dust inert.

green Argon gas bottles in a line

Additive manufacturing is the future, and we’re certainly looking forward to seeing the creations that are made through this process in the future. How will you use argon gas to achieve greater production?