Definition[edit | edit source]

Additive manufacturing (AM) (also called solid freeform fabrication (SFF) and 3-D printing) is

the direct fabrication of end-use products and components using technologies that deposit material layer-by-layer. It enables the manufacture of geometrically complex, low to medium volume production components in a range of materials, with little, if any, fixed tooling or manual intervention beyond the initial product design.[1]

Overview[edit | edit source]

Additive manufacturing has existed for decades, but is now receiving increased attention because of its potential to transform the manufacturing industry and how goods are produced, distributed, and sold to consumers. For instance, additive manufacturing could make existing product supply chains more efficient by allowing for more on demand production, which could reduce the need to maintain large product inventories and spare parts, and allow for the localized production of goods closer to consumers.

[A]dditive manufacturing also can reduce the time to design and produce functional parts because it can produce prototypes rapidly without reconfiguring or retooling the manufacturing line, and it can provide the ability to implement new concepts, designs, and innovations quickly.

Additive manufacturing technology opens up new opportunities for the economy and society. It can allow manufacturers to produce some complex parts that cannot be made or are very expensive to make with conventional manufacturing processes. This can enable manufacturers to create better designs that have fewer parts and use less material, which leads to reduced cost.

For example, it can facilitate the production of strong lightweight products for the aerospace industry and it allows designs that were not possible with previous manufacturing techniques. It may revolutionize medicine with biomanufacturing. This technology has the potential to increase the well-being of U.S. citizens and improve energy efficiency in ground and air transportation. However, the adoption and diffusion of this new technology is not instantaneous. With any new technology, new standards, knowledge, and infrastructure are required to facilitate its use.

Although additive manufacturing allows the manufacture of customized and increasingly complex parts, the slow print speed of additive manufacturing systems limits their use for mass production. Additionally, 3D scanning technologies have enabled the replication of real objects without using expensive molds. As the costs of additive manufacturing systems decrease, this technology may change the way that consumers interact with producers. The customization of products will require increased data collection from the end user. Additionally, an inexpensive 3D printer allows the end user to produce polymer-based products in their own home or office.

Organizations such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology can enable the development of these items; thus, it is important to understand the size and extent of the additive manufacturing industry. Although many organizations provide estimates on the size of the industry, they are often not comparable to widely published industry data and statistics.

The do-it-yourself or maker movement has already benefited from the increasing availability of low-cost 3D printers and uses additive manufacturing technology to create a wide variety of items, including jewelry, toys, sculptures, and other artistic products. Additive manufacturing holds the potential for disrupting existing and creating new markets, but the technology is in its relative infancy and it may be years or decades before it reaches levels of confidence comparable to what the industry has with the more familiar conventional manufacturing processes and materials.

Processes[edit | edit source]

Additive manufacturing systems are categorized into various different processes. These include:

  • Binder Jetting: This process uses liquid bonding agent deposited using an inkjet-print head to join powder materials in a powder bed.
  • Directed Energy Deposition: This process utilizes thermal energy, typically from a laser, to fuse materials by melting them as they are deposited.
  • Material Extrusion: These machines push material, typically a thermoplastic filament, through a nozzle onto a platform that moves in horizontal and vertical directions.
  • Material Jetting: This process, typically, utilizes a moving inkjet-print head to deposit material across a build area.
  • Powder Bed Fusion: This process uses thermal energy from a laser or electron beam to selectively fuse powder in a powder bed.
  • Sheet Lamination: This process uses sheets of material bonded to form a three-dimensional object.
  • Vat Photopolymerization: These machines selectively cure a liquid photopolymer in a vat using light.

Digital threats to additive manufacturing[edit | edit source]

Due to the abundance of and reliance on digital data, smart manufacturing is subject to a digital threat. Additive manufacturing (AM) is a process that benefits from the smart manufacturing paradigm, in which a physical object is built by growing material, layer-by-layer, to the desired geometry. Unlike conventional manufacturing methods (such as subtractive processes), AM only requires the design of the physical object and a 3D printer, making manufacturing easier and cheaper.

These characteristics and benefits also make AM a very appealing target for hackers. Many cyber-threats have been identified. One such threat is digital product data theft. A stolen design and a low-cost rinter are enough to produce counterfeit parts potentially incurring loss of revenues and putting customers at risk. Another cyber-threat is digital product data tampering. Due to the nature of the AM process, a product physical structure can be altered to introduce failure points (i.e., internal voids) without any external modification, making a faulty part almost undetectable. A similar approach can be used to corrupt the manufacturing parameters (e.g., change of material or modified toolpath instructions).

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Additive Manufacturing and 3D Printing Research Group (full-text).

See also[edit | edit source]

Sources[edit | edit source]

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