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1 Basics, Definitions,

and Application Levels

To understand the characteristics and the capabilities of additive manufacturing

(AM), it is very helpful to take a look at the systematics of manufacturing technol-
ogies in general first.

„„1.1 Systematics of Manufacturing
Orientated on the geometry only, manufacturing technology in general is divided
into three fundamental clusters [Burns, 93, AMT, 14]:1
1. subtractive manufacturing technology,
2. formative manufacturing technology, and
3. additive manufacturing technology.
With subtractive manufacturing technology, the desired geometry is obtained by
the defined removal of material, for example, by milling or turning.
Formative manufacturing means to alter the geometry in a defined way by apply-
ing external forces or heat, for example, by bending, forging, or casting. Formative
manufacturing does not change the volume of the part.
Additive manufacturing creates the desired shape by adding material, preferably
by staggering contoured layers on top of each other. Therefore it is also called layer
(or layered) technology.
The principle of layer technology is based on the fact that any object, at least theo-
retically, can be sliced into layers and rebuilt using these layers, regardless of the
complexity of its geometry.

In Germany, manufacturing technology is divided into six main categories, and each of them is subdivided

into various subcategories [DIN 8580], [Witt, 06].

2 1 Basics, Definitions, and Application Levels

Figure 1.1 underlines this principle. It shows the so-called sculpture puzzle, in

which a three-dimensional (3D) object has to be assembled from more than 100
slices. Therefore the layers have to be arranged vertically in the right sequence
using a supporting stick.

Figure 1.1 Principle of layer technology, example: sculpture puzzle
(Source: HASBRO/MB Puzzle)

Additive manufacturing (AM) is an automated fabrication process based on layer

technology. AM integrates two main subprocesses: the physical making of each
single layer and the joining of subsequent layers in sequence to form the part.
Both processes are done simultaneously. The AM build process just requires the
3D data of the part, commonly called the virtual product model.
It is a characteristic of AM that not only the geometry but the material properties
of the part as well are generated during the build process.

„„1.2 Systematics of Layer Technology

In this section the commonly used terms in AM are addressed. The related charac-
teristics as well as their interdependency and the hierarchical structure are dis-
In this book the generally accepted so-called generic terms are used, and alterna-
tively used names are mentioned.
1.2 Systematics of Layer Technology 3

Generic terms and brand names have to be distinguished from each other. If they
are mixed, which happens quite often, this frequently leads to confusion. As brand
names are important in practice, they are addressed, explained, and linked to the
generic terms in Chapter 3, where the AM machines are presented.

1.2.1 Application of Layer Technology: Additive Manufacturing

and 3D Printing

Additive manufacturing is the generic term for all manufacturing technologies that
automatically produce parts by physically making and joining volume elements,
commonly called voxels. The volume elements are generally layers of even thick-
Additive manufacturing is standardized in the US (ASTM F2792) and in Germany
(VDI 3405), and is commonly used worldwide.
As alternative terms, additive manufacturing (technology) and additive layer
­manufacturing (ALM) have minor acceptance.
3D printing is about to replace all other names, including additive manufacturing,
and to become the generally accepted generic term for layer technology in the near
future. This is mainly because it is very easy to understand. Everyone who can
operate a text editor (a word processor) and a 2D office printer easily understands
that he or she will be able to print a 3D object using a 3D design program (a part
processor) and a 3D printing machine, regardless of how it works.
NOTE: Additive manufacturing and 3D printing are used as equal generic terms in
this book. While in Chapter 1 this is expressed by always writing additive manu-
facturing /3D printing (or AM/3DP). In the following chapters only additive manu-
facturing or AM is used in order to shorten the text volume.
Beginners should realize that 3D Printing is also the brand name of a family of
powder binder processes (see Section 3.6), originally developed by MIT and ­licensed
to Z-Corporation (now 3D Systems), Voxeljet, and others.

1.2.2 Characteristics of Additive Manufacturing

Layer technologies in general and additive manufacturing in particular show spe-

cial characteristics:
ƒƒThe geometry of each layer is obtained solely and directly from the 3D compu­ter-
aided design (CAD) data of the part (commonly called a virtual product model).
ƒƒThere are no product-related tools necessary and consequently no tool change.
ƒƒThe material properties of the part are generated during the build process.
4 1 Basics, Definitions, and Application Levels

ƒƒThe parts can be built in any imaginable orientation. There is no need for clamp-
ing, thus eliminating the clamping problem of subtractive manufacturing tech-
nologies. Nevertheless, some processes need support structures, and the orienta-
tion of the part influences the parts’ properties.
ƒƒToday, all AM processes can be run using the same so-called STL (or AMF) data
structure, thus eliminating data exchange problems with preprocessors as used
in subtractive manufacturing.
Additive manufacturing/3D printing therefore ensures the direct conversion of the
3D CAD data (the virtual product model) into a physical or real part.
As scaling can be done simply in the CAD file, parts of different sizes and made
from different materials can be obtained from the same data set. As an example,
the towers of a chess set shown in Fig. 1.2 are based on the same data set but made
with different AM machines and from different materials. The range of materials
includes foundry sand, acrylic resin, starch powder, metals, and epoxy resin.

Figure 1.2 Additive manufacturing. Scaled towers of a chess set, based on the same data set
but made with different AM machines and from different materials.
Small towers, from left to right: PMMA (powder-binder process, Voxeljet), metal (laser sintering,
EOS), acrylate, transparent (stereolithography, Envisiontec; height approx. 3 cm).
Big towers, from left to right: foundry sand (powder-binder process, Voxeljet), starch powder
(powder-binder process, 3D Systems; height approx. 20 cm) (Source: machine manufacturers)

One of the biggest AM parts of all is the tower shown in Fig. 1.3 with a height of
approximately 2.5 m, which is higher than the general manager of the Voxeljet
Company, Mr. I. Ederer.
1.2 Systematics of Layer Technology 5

Figure 1.3 Chess tower made from foundry sand, height approx. 2.5 m, powder-binder
­process (Source: Voxeljet)

By contrast, Fig. 1.4 shows a tower made by micro laser sintering. It is approxi-

mately 5 mm high.

Figure 1.4 Tower made from metal, height approx. 5 mm, micro laser sintering
(Source: EOS/3D Micromac)

AM/3DP allows manufacturing of geometric details that cannot be made using

subtractive or formative technologies. As an example, the towers on Fig. 1.2 con-
tain spiral staircases and centered double-helix hand rails. The details can be seen
on a cutaway model displayed in Fig. 1.5.
6 1 Basics, Definitions, and Application Levels

 Figure  1.5 
Internal details of the rear right tower on Fig. 1.2
(Source: 3D Systems)

Another example of geometries that cannot be manufactured using subtractive or

formative technologies is shown in Fig. 2.5.
All AM/3DP processes mentioned here will be explained in detail in Chapter 3.

„„1.3 Hierarchical Structure of Additive

Manufacturing Processes
For a proper definition of the terms used, it is very helpful to distinguish the tech-
nology and its application from each other. Subtractive manufacturing, for exam-
ple, marks the technology level, and drilling, grinding, milling, and so on are the
names for its application (or the application level).
The technology of additive manufacturing/3D printing is divided in two main ap-
plication levels: rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing. Rapid prototyping is
the application of AM/3DP to make prototypes and models or mock-ups, and rapid
manufacturing is the application to make final parts and products.
The manufacturing of tools, tool inserts, gauges, and so on usually is called rapid
tooling. The term often is regarded as an independent hierarchical element or ap-
plication level, but effectively it is not. Depending on how a tool is made, it repre-
sents a prototype or a product (Fig. 1.6).
1.3 Hierarchical Structure of Additive Manufacturing Processes 7

Additive Manufacturing
3D Printing

Prototyping Manufacturing of
- Concept Models
Rapid Prototyping
- Functional Prototypes

Rapid Manufacturing of

Tooling tools and tool inserts


Manufacturing of
Rapid Manufacturing
final parts

Figure 1.6 Basic structure of additive manufacturing/3D printing technology and its

­subcategories rapid prototyping, rapid manufacturing, and rapid tooling

1.3.1 Rapid Prototyping

Rapid prototyping (RP) is the application of AM/3DP technology to make proto-

types, models, and mock-ups, all of them being physical parts but not products.
They only mimic isolated properties of the latter product in order to verify the
­engineering design and to allow the testing of selected product capabilities and
thus to improve and speed up the product development process. The goal is to pre-
plan a part to make it as simple as possible in order to get it quickly and cheaply.
Therefore, rapid prototyping parts generally cannot be used as final products.
As prototypes differ from products, serial identical prototypes (which are not prod-
ucts but prototypes) do not exist, although the term is used to underline a strategy.
Rapid prototyping again is subdivided into solid imaging or concept modeling, and
functional prototyping.
Solid imaging or concept modeling: If a rapid prototyping part is made mainly for 3D
visualization, it is called a solid image, a concept model, a mock-up, or even a rapid
mock-up. The idea behind it is to generate a 3D picture or a statue (Fig. 1.7). To
highlight this aspect, the parts are also called show-and-tell models.
If a part has a single or some of the functionalities of the latter product, it can be
used to verify this aspect of the engineering design. Consequently it is called a
functional prototype (and the process functional prototyping accordingly).
8 1 Basics, Definitions, and Application Levels

Additive Processes Processes

Additive Manufacturing
3D Printing

Solid Imaging

Concept Modeling Indirect

Rapid Prototyping Prototyping



Indirect Tooling

Direct Tooling
Rapid Manufacturing
Direct Manufacturing

Figure 1.7 Basic structure of the AM/3D printing technology: application levels rapid proto-
typing, rapid manufacturing, and rapid tooling and its subcategories

A sample of each category is displayed in Fig. 1.8. The scaled data control model of
a convertible roof system (made from polyamide by laser sintering) can be re-
garded as a typical concept model. The air-outlet nozzle of a passenger car (made
by laser stereolithography from epoxy resin) is a functional prototype that sup-
ports the testing of the car’s climate control.

Figure 1.8 Rapid prototyping: concept model or solid image (left), laser sintering (Source: CP
GmbH); functional prototype (right), laser stereolithography (Source: 3D Systems)

The corresponding AM processes are presented in detail in Chapter 3.

1.3 Hierarchical Structure of Additive Manufacturing Processes 9

1.3.2 Rapid Manufacturing

Rapid manufacturing (RM) names the application of the AM/3D printing technol-
ogy to make final parts or products, often called series products, even if they are
one-offs. (A deeper discussion can be found in Chapter 6.) The parts can be posi-
tives like connectors as well as negatives like cavities. Making positives or parts is
called direct manufacturing, and the additive manufacturing of negatives or cavi-
ties, such as tools and tool inserts, is called direct tooling; see Fig. 1.7. Rapid Manufacturing—Direct Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing of final parts or products is called direct
manufacturing (DM). Frequently and for historical reasons it is also called rapid
manufacturing (RM) and complies directly with the main term. Often the terms
e-manufacturing, digital manufacturing, tool-less fabrication, and others are used.
Direct manufacturing is based on the same technology as rapid prototyping and, at
least until today, uses the same machines. The goal is to make final products.
Whether the goal can be reached or not depends on the degree of accomplishment
of the required mechanical and technological properties. This again depends on
the machines, processes, and materials available. Further, whether the needed ac-
curacy can be reached and if a competitive price can be achieved are essential.
As an example of direct manufacturing, Fig. 1.9 shows a three-element dental
bridge (left). The associated process chain will be shown in Chapter 3, and applica-
tions will be discussed in Chapter 6.

Figure 1.9 Rapid manufacturing: direct manufacturing of a three-element dental bridge (left)
(Source: GoetheLab FH Aachen/Sokalla); direct tooling for making golf balls (right) (Source:
10 1 Basics, Definitions, and Application Levels Rapid Manufacturing—Rapid Tooling (Direct Tooling—

Prototype Tooling)
Additive manufacturing/3D printing of a high number tools is a rapid manufactur-
ing process. It is called direct tooling or, to underline the character of additive man-
ufacturing, direct rapid tooling (Fig. 1.7). Figure 1.9 (right) shows a tool for making
golf balls.
Direct tooling has to be distinguished from prototype tooling. Prototype tooling is
the name for processes to make tools and tool inserts from model or prototype ma-
terials, for example from stereolithography resin (see AIM, Section There-
fore, prototype tooling is basically a part of functional prototyping. Prototype tool-
ing often is called bridge tooling as well because it bridges the gap between
prototype tools and series tools, mainly for small-batch production. Prototype tool-
ing is characterized by quickly and easily made low-volume tools.
As can be seen in Fig. 1.7, rapid tooling does not indicate a separate application
level of the additive manufacturing/3D printing technology but integrates different
tooling applications in the sense of a vertical structuring element.
Historically, the making of tools and tool inserts first were based on rapid prototyp-
ing and thus were realized before modern direct manufacturing was available. For
marketing reasons, the new application was published as an advancement of rapid
prototyping and thus was given a new name: rapid tooling. Because of this, there
are still publications that structure additive manufacturing/3D printing with a
separate subcategory called rapid tooling.

1.3.3 Related Nonadditive Processes: Indirect or Secondary Rapid

­Prototyping Processes

The terms indirect prototyping, indirect manufacturing, and indirect tooling do not
indicate additive manufacturing/3D printing processes, although it is suggested
by the names. A process is called indirect if it uses additive-manufactured masters
without being an additive process itself. The best-known examples are copying
processes like vacuum casting (also called room-temperature vulcanization (RTV)
or reaction injection molding (RIM).
If indirect processes lead to parts (positives), the process is called indirect proto-
typing, if final products are the result, for example cast parts obtained from (lost)
AM/3DP master models, it is called indirect manufacturing, and if tools or tool
inserts (negatives) are made, it is called indirect tooling (for examples see
Fig. 1.10(a)(b)).
1.3 Hierarchical Structure of Additive Manufacturing Processes 11

Figure 1.10 Indirect Processes: Indirect Prototyping (left), Indirect Tooling (right)

The above-mentioned copying processes are frequently called rapid prototyping,

rapid manufacturing, or rapid tooling as well; sometimes they are named a little bit
more precisely as secondary rapid prototyping processes (or applications). In prac-
tice, often the adjective “rapid” is used although the processes are nonadditive.
Mostly this is done to make it more attractive to customers.
The application of additive manufacturing/3DP for making rapid prototyping parts
and final products is discussed in detail in Sections 4.3.2 to 4.3.6; for making tools
and tool inserts it is discussed in detail in Section 5.3.

1.3.4 Rapid Prototyping or Rapid Manufacturing?

Whether we talk about rapid prototyping or rapid manufacturing, it often causes

intensive discussions. In fact, the same part can be a prototype or a product and
consequently can be made using rapid prototyping (functional prototyping) or
rapid manufacturing (direct manufacturing) processes.
A part that was designed for additive manufacturing from polyamide, is made by
AM/3DP from polyamide, and that finally shows all relevant properties as designed
is a product. In contrast, a part that was designed for plastic injection molding of
polyamide and then is made using additive manufacturing and polyamide at best
is a prototype if the geometry is exact.
In this context, the material used in AM/3DP does not play a role, as long as it is
identical in engineering design and production. A part made from paper, wax,
starch powder, or gypsum definitely can be a product.
12 1 Basics, Definitions, and Application Levels

1.3.5 Diversity of Terms

Today, additive manufacturing and 3D printing are regarded as generic terms for
layer technologies. Besides this, many other terms are in use. They change with
time, and even their meaning sometimes changes with time.
With the first introduction of additive manufactured parts and processes in the late
1980s, the generic name was rapid prototyping.
At that time the term rapid prototyping was correct. First, using rapid prototyping
processes, parts could be made much faster. This was mainly because for the
first time parts could be made directly because tools could be avoided, thus saving
time and money. Second, the parts could not be used as products but as prototypes
at best. This was mainly because of the materials available and because of poor
As a kind of reminiscence of rapid prototyping, even today many processes are
named with the adjective “rapid,” mostly to underline their speed, even if they are
Besides additive manufacturing/3D printing, the most prominent term is rapid
technology or rapid technologies, but additive manufacturing or, very rarely, form-
ative manufacturing is used as well.
Another family of terms used is linked to layer-based manufacturing. Names like
layer manufacturing or more often additive layer manufacturing (ALM) are used.
As an equivalent to manufacturing, the terms fabrication or production are used
as well.
In addition, in the literature some terms are often used that refer to a specific abil-
ity of a process. For example, solid free-form manufacturing (SFM) underlines that
solids are made that are traced by free-form surfaces. Desktop manufacturing
marks the manufacturing in an office environment (on the desk).
Besides the full names, three- and four-letter abbreviations are used. Often they
lead to confusion rather than to precision. The most-often used ones are explained
in the text or listed in the glossary.
In practice, the terms often are not properly used. Frequently, not even generic
names and brand names are distinguished from each other. For example, many
people call it stereolithography if they speak about AM/3DP in general.
1.4 Integration of Additive Manufacturing in the Product Development Process 13

1.3.6 How Fast Is Rapid?

Many terms and definitions contain the term rapid or fast. But rapid is a relative
term. It only becomes a quality term if “how fast or fast in comparison to what?”
is added.
The term itself is kind of dangerous because it suggests that rapid processes are
basically faster than any other manufacturing processes. This is not true and
cannot be generalized. The speed depends on the geometry. If a board of
250 × 250 × 10 mm is needed, one cuts it from a semifinished bulk. No additive
manufacturing/3D printing process will be faster.
Under special conditions, additive manufacturing processes are faster than nonad-
ditive ones, for example if tools can be avoided, if a volume-independent flexible
output is required, if complex geometries are needed, or if individualized parts are
But the term rapid does bear a practical advantage. It is accepted as a synonym of
today’s computerized and therefore automated processes for mainly making proto-
types. It is self-explanatory, which is one of the most important attributes of a
term. That is why people will continue calling AM/3DP rapid prototyping, rapid
tooling, and rapid manufacturing, as it is done sometimes in this book as well.

„„1.4 Integration of Additive Manufacturing

in the Product Development Process
Additive manufacturing can be used not only to make parts, but due to their spe-
cial abilities (see Section 1.2.2, “Characteristics of Layer Technologies”), they are
suited to improve established processes, realizing new product features, and sup-
porting new product development strategies.

1.4.1 Additive Manufacturing and Product Development

Industrial product formation involves the time period from the first product idea to
the introduction of the product to the market. It includes the development of the
product, the development and the fabrication of the production facility, and the
production of the product itself.
14 1 Basics, Definitions, and Application Levels

The goal of all manufacturers is to keep this time span as short as possible and
therefore to optimize all subprocesses. Additive manufactured parts are particu-
larly suitable to shortening the product development process and to improving
it at the same time. The biggest influence comes from the fact that expensive
and time-consuming tools can be avoided with the use of additive manufactur-
ing/3D printing.
This effect is enforced if in any phase of product development the optimal AM/3DP
process is used. To identify it, it is favorable to have a correlation between the ap-
plication levels of the additive manufacturing technology (as displayed on Fig. 1.7)
and the phases of the product development process on Fig. 1.11. This shows an
internationally accepted structure, although this particular process chain was
taken from the guidelines of the German Association of Mechanical Engineers, VDI
[VDI 2221].

Product Generation
Product Development


Figure 1.11 Phases of product development in correlation to the application levels of

AM/3DP (Fig. 1.7). 
The internationally accepted process chain following the guidelines of the German Association
of Mechanical Engineers, VDI [VDI 2221] (top) and its correlation to the application levels rapid
prototyping and rapid manufacturing (middle) and its subcategories concept modeling, func-
tional prototyping, prototype tooling, direct tooling, and direct manufacturing (bottom)
1.4 Integration of Additive Manufacturing in the Product Development Process 15

Product development covers rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing (of the
production facility as well as of the product; see Fig. 1.11, middle). In detail, idea-
tion and conception are improved by concept modeling, while the engineering de-
sign and the technical preparation are supported by functional prototyping. The
fabrication of the products is done by direct manufacturing.
Rapid tooling supports the making of tools and tool inserts. In the prototyping
phase, prototype tooling is applied, and in the production phase direct tooling is
used (see Fig. 1.11, bottom).
A more detailed structure is discussed later in section 4.3.1. The capabilities of the
models (model classes or categories, to be defined later) are linked to the AM fam-
ilies defined in Chapter 3.
In practice, the definitions are not as sharp as displayed here, and their transitions
are smooth. In addition, depending on the product, not every phase is addressed in
each product development process.

1.4.2 Additive Manufacturing for Low-Volume and One-of-a-Kind


AM/3DP is done layer by layer and without product-dependent tools. It does not
matter how many parts are manufactured at once in one build space (as long as
they fit in) and whether they are identical or not. Therefore, AM/3DP enables a
volume-independent production, even with a mixed production containing differ-
ent volumes and one-offs.

1.4.3 Additive Manufacturing for Individualized Production

AM/3DP shows not only the volume effect mentioned in Section 1.4.2, but also
supports the manufacturing of individually modified products. This is the realiza-
tion of the strategy of customizing, which basically cannot be done using tools.
The individualization of a product can be done by using CAD systems or by the in-
tegration of 3D scans, in so-called reverse engineering. As an example, hearing aid
shells made by AM/3DP are displayed in Fig. 1.12 that show the production and
the finished parts.
Besides this more professional approach, there are part libraries available, even on
the Internet. Along with easy to operate (low-cost or shareware) 3D CAD systems,
this provides easy access to the needed data, even for private and semiprofes-
sional use.
Using AM, virtually everybody can be a manufacturer.
16 1 Basics, Definitions, and Application Levels

Figure 1.12 Individualized production or customizing: manufacturing of individualized hearing

aid shells. Upside-down production, left; finished parts, right (Source: 3D Systems)

„„1.5 Machines for Additive Manufacturing

Today, machines for AM/3DP are called 3D printers.
Rarely, the term “fabricator” is used to indicate that the final products are made,
and in contrast, the machines for making prototypes are called “prototypers.”
As indicated on Fig. 1.7, parts and machines are classified according to the appli-
cation levels. They can be roughly divided into three machine classes. Machines
that make
ƒƒconcept models are called personal 3D printers or fabbers,
ƒƒfunctional prototypes are called professional 3D printers or office printers, and
ƒƒfinal products are called production 3D printers.
This interrelation is displayed on Table 1.1.
1.5 Machines for Additive Manufacturing 17

Table 1.1 Classification of machines for Additive Manufacturing/3D Printing

Machine class
Designation * Prototyper Fabricator
Personal 3D printer Professional Production machine
3D Printer Production 3D printer
Fabber Personal Office printer Production printer
printer (Shop floor machine)
Use Private, domestic Semiprofes- Professional Professional,
sional office office or production or job shop
Usage levels (Fig. 1.7)
ƒƒ Prototypes X
Display models
ƒƒ Concept models X
ƒƒ Functional prototypes X
ƒƒ Final products X
Construction material Plastic Plastic Plastic Plastic, metal, ceramic
Price level 500 to 4000 € 1000 to 20,000 to 130,000 to > 800,000 €
[1 € ≈ 1.07 USD] 10,000 € 70,000 €

Prusa Mendel

Dimension Objet Concept SLM

* The classifications are not standardized and are handled differently by different manufacturers and users. Those used
here are based on the recommendation from 3D Systems and follow a system often used in practice.

The machine classes again are linked to characteristic specifications.

Personal 3D Printer
In analogy to personal computers, small, simply engineered, shareware-based,
easy to operate (even on a desk), and inexpensive 3D printers are called personal
3D printers. Today they mostly use plastics, but other materials will be available in
the near future.

Personal 3D printers in private use are commonly called fabbers. Fabbers are
mostly assembled by the owner and operator himself (DIY printer). The term
18 1 Basics, Definitions, and Application Levels

“fabber” is an abbreviation of fabricator. The process is called fabbing. The philo­

sophy behind it is to enable everybody to fabricate almost everything by himself.
Corresponding web-based blogs and Internet communities are established (the
fabbing community). They support the exchange of information regarding the con-
struction and the operation of fabbers and propagate new kinds of cooperation,
such as cloud-fabbing. Members mutually train themselves. To start with, it is
­sufficient to be able to operate a personal computer and to own a kitchen table as

Professional 3D Printer
Professional 3D printers or office printers are compact, easy to operate, and ser-
vice friendly. Even semiskilled people can operate it in an office environment.
Professional 3D printers have cartridge-supported material changing systems. The
parts can be taken out without contamination of the operators or the environment.
Removal of the support structures and cleaning for the most part can be done auto-
matically or semiautomatically using special washing media and devices.
Operators are trained by tutorials or by a short training session, mostly in-house.
There are no special requirements concerning the infrastructure.

Production 3D Printer
Production 3D printers (or factory work floor printers) enable a continuous
high-quality and high-volume output. Production 3D printers focus on productiv-
ity. Generally, they have big build chambers, material handling systems, and auto-
mated devices for postprocessing.
Production printers are heavy, have big footprints, and cause emissions that are
typical for production machines. Installation, maintenance, and service require
professional support. Operators need to be trained intensively, mainly supported
by the machine manufacturer.

Machine Classes and Part Properties

In general, there is a correlation between the machine classes and the part proper-
ties that can be obtained. A little bit more detailed than in Table 1.1, the charac-
teristics of parts and the capabilities of printers (machine classes) are linked as
ƒƒPersonal 3D printers are preferred for making concept models (show-and-tell
models) and less loadable parts with limited details and reduced geometric free-
dom. At least today, they are limited to manufacturing parts from plastics.
ƒƒProfessional 3D printers are preferred for making concept models and functional
prototypes with good details and reasonable loading capacity. Often they are the
basis for making small series of end products with the help of secondary rapid
1.5 Machines for Additive Manufacturing 19

prototyping processes. Like personal 3D printers (at least today), they are limited
to manufacturing parts from plastics.
ƒƒProduction 3D printers are used to make final products or series parts. They can
be one-offs as well as series of any volume, including a mixed production of dif-
ferent parts and volumes. Materials are plastics, ceramics, or metals. Usually the
parts need postprocessing to achieve their final properties and complexion.
But, the correlation by trend between the machine classes and the capability of the
parts cannot be regarded as principles. On one hand, there are fabbers that pro-
duce plastic parts that can be used as products, for example, individually shaped
clamps (Fig. 1.13). On the other hand, there are production printers that make, for
example, hollow turbine blades that only can be used for cold-air testing (Fig. 1.14).

Figure 1.13 Articulated cable clamp, a final product made by laser sintering from polyamide in
one piece. Closed on the left and open on the right (Source: EOS)

 Figure 1.14 
Cutaway model of a gas turbine blade, gypsum ceramics,
made with a powder-binder process
(Source: IwF-Aachen)