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You will acknowledge this soon .3D printing is an important and fast-growing subset of Additive Manufacturing (AM) and already exists particularly for manufacturing prototypes.

But prototypes were developed earlier also! What was the manufacturing technique used?

Let us first understand the current, traditional (subtractive), manufacturing.

Subtractive manufacturing is a process by which 3D objects are constructed by successively cutting material away from a solid block of material. Subtractive manufacturing can be done manually or by advanced CNC machines utilizing multiple tools and cuts around the three (x, y, and z). This process is very time consuming and costly with huge material wastage and limited to certain shapes and geometries.

Additive Manufacturing (AM) is actually a synonym for 3D (dimensional) printing and/or any process by which 3D objects are constructed by successively depositing material in layers such that it becomes a predesigned shape. Modern 3D printing has always been very useful for rapid prototype development but it is starting to make its impact on the manufacturing world as well. Additive manufacturing can be done  manually by highly trained personnel and off late using robots.

As a result, there is literally zero material wastage. It’s the ultimate Lean manufacturing method. Another advantage is the ability to manufacture certain geometries, such as hollow parts, that would be impractical with traditional methods.

At MIT, where the technology was invented, projects abound supporting a range of forward-thinking applications.

AM technologies use:

1. A computer

2. 3D modeling software (Computer Aided Design or CAD)

3. AM machine equipment and layering material

4. AM is being used to fabricate end-use products in aircraft, dental restorations, medical implants, automobiles, and even fashion products.

Basic process:

1. CAD sketch is produced,

2. AM equipment reads in data from the CAD file and

3. Personnel lay down or add successive layers of liquid, powder, sheet material or other, in a layer-upon-layer fashion to fabricate a 3D object.

Companies like Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp. offers complete 3D software tools that let you create, simulate, publish, and manage your data.

The AM approach of adding layer-upon-layer approach is simple. But the approaches are facilitated by highly trained personnel.AM typically excels at small batch production runs. Yet, 3D printing is currently too slow for most manufacturing applications. The term AM encompasses many technologies including subsets like 3D Printing, Rapid Prototyping (RP), Direct Digital Manufacturing (DDM), layered manufacturing and additive fabrication.

Examples of major AM segments are mentioned below:

AM Technologies

  • Stereolithography
  • Selective laser sintering
  • Electron beam melting
  • Fused deposition modelling (FDM)
  • Laminated object manufacturing

AM Materials 

  •  Polymers
  • Metals & Alloys
  • Ceramics

AM Applications

  • Aerospace
  • Industrial
  • Healthcare
  • Education & research
  • Architecture
  • Defence
  • Automotive
  • Consumer products

AM examples


GE Aviation recently began leveraging robotic AM processes for freeform fabrication. The purpose of introducing robotic AM for their Advanced Turboprop engine was to reduce waste and reduce the number of parts processed. In the end, GE was able to reduce 855 separate parts down to just 12, with more than a third of the entire engine being produced with robotic AM processes.


Midwest Engineered Systems Inc is using robotic laser AM to create complicated metal parts. Since implementation, they’ve achieved 99 percent material utilization and only about 5 percent of any part needs to be machined – the rest can be 3D printed.


FDM and Polyjet machines offer Bio-compatible Materials, for rapid prototyping of medical and dental products including dental delivery devices, surgical orthopedic guides, and hearing aids. The medical materials offer excellent visualization and great dimensional stability.

Education and research

Prototypes developed by 3D printing can be used in labs in institutions. It is an excellent match and an effective way to enrich learning in virtually any discipline, particularly the STEM curriculum.


Architects can create scale models faster and create complex, durable models in-house, directly from CAD data.

Future applications of AM technology with degrees of sophistication:

Visualization tool in design means to create highly customized products for consumers and professionals alike industrial tooling to produce small lots of production parts.

Powerful combination! Advanced AM manufacturing with robotics, automation and the IoT by 2025?

1. Every machine will be smart

IoT enabled machine to machine communication, in real time, will find ways to optimize performance characteristics and identify weak points before can they become problems, minimizing maintenance and reducing shutdowns.

2. Additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing will rapidly evolve

Printers (and therefore products) keep getting bigger and printing keeps getting faster. Materials that can be 3D-printed include metal, plastic, mixed materials, and even human tissue. No product seems to be beyond the realm of being 3D-printed. Caterpillar’s unique, in-house AM Factory is an engineer’s paradise that is stocked with the latest AM equipment.

3. Automation and robotics will continue to dominate

Not only will robots become smarter, they will also be cheaper, meaning more companies will be able to afford them. Increased automation in the workplace could cut labor costs- Boston Consulting Group.

Future AM benefits
  • Mass customization and personalization of consumer goods become a reality with 3D printed toys, shoes, cosmetics and even food products like chocolates and meats that have “print at home” purchase options.
  • 3D concrete printing transforms architecture, with the possibility of 3D printed concrete structure and buildings.
  • 4D printing produces responsive or “smart” objects that self-assemble or shape-shift when exposed to different stimuli.
  • 3D printing mini builders.3D printing mini builders combine robotics and additive manufacturing; the process involves fully mobile robots lay down layers of material one at a time and work together to construct objects of virtually any size. These ‘mini builders’ are under development at the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) based in Barcelona.

The future AM technology definitely centers round the robot. 3D printing is currently too slow for most manufacturing applications. Think of a robot as a personnel executing 3D printing; 24 x 7 working hours, high-speed operations, impeccable accuracy, handles hazardous materials, works at high ambient temperatures and high RH. The dexterity (effective usage) of robotic arms is still the key to its incorporation into AM. This involves rigorous and stringent testing norms.

The real revolution is yet to begin. Imagine the explosive future growth in AM with a combination of robotics, automation and the IoT? AM applications are limitless.The days of -Bio-printing- the use of 3D printers to produce human tissues and even organs are becoming feasible and very near-a service to humanity!

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Applications of robotic automation are already in place in every industry. The time is “Now”! Get started right away with our customized product and service-based solutions.

Embrace the future. Contact us to save your time and money to deliver a quality product.


Asif Dadamiya Ismail

Robot-assisted test automation on real HMI Devices | IVI | Mobile Phones| POS Machines | Smart Device | Touchscreens | Keypad | Avionics panels - Test your product in a most realistic way like a human using RPA.

Comments (0)

    March 17, 2018

    Thank you! This is so helpful!

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