AM is used to build physical models, prototypes, patterns, tooling components, and production parts in plastic, metal, ceramic, glass, and composite materials. AM systems use thin, horizontal cross sections from computer-aided design (CAD) models, 3D-scanning systems, medical scanners to
produce parts in about every shape imaginable.Design and manufacturing organizations use AM parts for products in the consumer, industrial, medical, and military markets. Digital cameras, mobile phones, engine parts, interior trim for automobiles, parts and assemblies for airplanes, power tools, and medical implants are just the beginning of a very long list of products that have benefited from AM technology. Additive manufacturing is a tool that streamlines and expedites the product development process. In an effort to reduce time to market, improve product quality, and reduce cost, companies of all sizes have come to rely on AM as a mainstream tool for rapid product development.
As a visualization tool, AM processes help companies reduce the likelihood of delivering flawed products,or the wrong products, to the marketplace. Early efforts were focused heavily on the rapid delivery of tooling, such as injection molds, but most failed. Recent developments have concentrated on using AM to improve the performance of injection-mold tooling. Some of these concepts involve the use of an AM process to achieve results that are simply not possible with machined tooling. Other recent efforts have focused on using AM to produce manufacturing and assembly tools, such as jigs, fixtures, gauges, and drill guides.