Additive manufacturing refers to processes that are closely related to 3D printing. The manufacturing process is ideal for the production of illustrative and functional prototypes, but also for the generation of tools, molds and finished products. A distinction is made between different areas of application:
- Rapid Prototyping
- Rapid Tooling
- Direct Manufacturing
- Rapid Manufacturing
- Rapid Repair
Materials that are mainly used for manufacturing are powder, plastic granules, thermoplastic plastic filaments, resin liquids and also wire. Additive manufacturing offers many advantages. A major advantage in medical technology is the customization of end products and tools to meet specific physical or medical needs. This customization is achieved through design freedom, as additive manufacturing processes can easily and quickly produce the most diverse and complicated shapes. The speed provided by the process also makes it possible to make changes at short notice. Despite the complexity, speed and individuality of the manufactured products, this process is often cheaper to produce. That´s the case because the materials can be used and processed efficiently, thus saving costs.
Nevertheless, additive manufacturing of medical products also has disadvantages. The manufacturing process is not suitable for mass production, as it is significantly slower than conservative processes without individualization. Furthermore, many industrial sites still lack a comprehensive understanding of additive manufacturing processes, which is why time-consuming and costly reworking is often required, especially in finishing.