TECHNOLOGY PROFILE 1 (Updated April 2022)
Additive layer manufacturing describes a manufacturing process in which a digitally controlled head with a laser deposits a fine layer of raw material to construct a three-dimensional object. Additive manufacturing is sometimes also called 3D printing.
3D desktop printers are already available to consumers at computer retailers and hobby shops. The performance and functionality of desktop 3D printers are increasing rapidly, while the cost of ownership is falling rapidly. Desktop 3D printers usually deposit a layer of molten plastic on a bed to create a three-dimensional shape.
In the industrial domain, rapid advances are being made in the melting of metals, alloys, high performance plastics and polycarbonates using lasers. Likewise, in the medical field, different technologies are being developed that allow for the combination of cells, growth factors, biomaterials and tissue to grow organs. Additive manufacturing technologies are also used to print complex sand moulds, or to create wax moulds for investment castings. The metal objects made by 3D printed moulds are basically ready-for-use and require almost no further grinding or processing.