Additive manufacturing was first developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has since become a widely used manufacturing technique. The term is used for multiple processes in which materials are layered together, including 3D printing. There are a variety of methods used in the additive manufacturing industry.
And each one is usually followed by a standard post-processing method.
Each additive manufacturing technique involves a different build environment and sometimes different materials as well. Following the creation of a design sketch in CAD, one of the following methods is applied to produce the physical model.
SLS and SLA
These two methods use lasers for the build, but the setting of the builds are different. In both methods, the material is on a platform that lowers as each layer is completed. During the SLS process, the laser fuses small parts together. For SLA, the laser cures each layer of photopolymer resin, but this happens in a pool of resin rather than leaving the materials without additional support.
MJM stands for multi-jet modeling. As the name suggests, this method uses a printer much like an inkjet printer with hundreds of small jets that lay down each layer of a homopolymer material. The head also moves on a three-dimensional plane back and forth similar to an inkjet printer. This technique is what most people think of when they hear about 3D printing.
This process involves the layering of thermoplastics with a machine that injects the material onto a platform with indexing nozzles. Because the material is a liquid when it is first put onto the platform, each layer must have time to cool down and solidify before the next layer can be applied. Depending on the level of complication for the model, additional support may be necessary to complete it.
The 3DP additional manufacturing method is the only one of these methods that can build with colors. With this process, a starch or plaster-like powder sweeps over each layer before the next layer is put down. The powder also supports the model as it is being built. Each layer is made of a binder which is applied over the layers of powder until the model is complete.
After any of these methods, additive manufacturing post-processing is critical to ensure that the models created are of the highest quality. No matter what material or process is used, post-processing refines and perfects what is produced by an additive manufacturing technique.
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