About Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing (AM, 3D printing, rapid prototyping) is the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer. Materials are added (versus the traditional subtractive manufacturing methods), to precise geometries determined by CAD drawings.  Two leading AM methods involve the use of a high-powered electron beam or a laser beam.

The center’s electron beam melting (EBM) machines rake metal powder across a build plate, then use an electron beam to melt the first layer of the design.  The machines then lower the build platform, rake another layer of powder across the build plate and melt the next layer on top of the previous, repeating this process until the part is complete. 

Advantages include:

  • Dramatic decrease in production time, from design to prototyping to finished product

  • Reduced raw materials, cutting waste and expense

  • Manufacturing of light-weight, durable and strong custom products

  • Enables production of extremely complex geometrical parts with reduced tooling; multiple parts from an assembly can now be consolidated into one integrated piece

  • Reduces inventory as parts can be made on-demand and on-site