The advent of new technologies, materials and techniques has dramatically changed what was once known as the rapid prototyping industry. Today, what firms like ProtoCAM do is best described as “additive manufacturing.”
What is Additive Manufacturing?
Items produced using rapid prototyping technologies are now high quality enough to be finished parts and components in production goods. Meaning, “rapid prototyping” is no longer an inclusive enough term. “Additive manufacturing,” by contrast, defines what we do by the actual fabrication techniques used.
Additive manufacturing processes – like stereolithography (SLA) and fused deposition modeling (FDM) – make end-use parts as well as prototypes for testing form and function via layering. That means material is added and the part is gradually built up, guided by a 3D drawing or CAD file. This stands in contrast to traditional “subtractive” manufacturing techniques – like turning and milling – where material is removed to carve out the piece, or expensive molding techniques.
Here, for instance, is an animation representing the process used by a stereolithography apparatus
Other additive manufacturing technologies, including selective laser sintering (SLS), PolyJet 3D printing and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), offer additional capabilities, including the ability to produce metal prototypes and finished products without machining. In general, additive manufacturing has several clear benefits over subtractive manufacturing, including speed, cost, and the ability to create parts with complex geometries, colors and surface textures.
How is Additive Manufacturing Used?
As more and more materials become available – including traditional resins, engineering grade plastics, steel and other metals – an increasing number of items are produced using additive manufacturing techniques. Many are prototypes used in the product development process, but additive manufacturing is also suitable for market-ready pieces or parts in low volumes, as well as custom production.
ProtoCAM: Excellence in Additive Manufacturing
We use additive manufacturing to describe what we do, but no matter the name, ProtoCAM is ready and willing to serve customers with services for rapid prototyping, rapid manufacturing, additive manufacturing, additive fabrication and direct digital manufacturing. Yes, we deliver prototypes that can be used in the product development process, but we also create production parts that can be used in final products.
ProtoCAM: Excellence in Additive Manufacturing. Click here to get a quote for your prototyping or manufacturing project today.