3D Printing vs. Additive Manufacturing

Four 3D printed tooling blocks with "Marando Industries" in blue on top of the metal. They are on top of a greaser table and have tubes coming out of the tooling that feed grease into a part that goes in the middle of the four 3D printed tools.

Additive Manufacturing or 3D Printing?  Both terms describe the use of digital data and 3D-printers to produce a solid object, one layer at a time. Technically, the terms ‘Additive Manufacturing’ and ‘3D printing’ describe the same process. The principal difference arises from the term ‘manufacturing’. It implies the item is produced in some volume and will become (or lead to) an end-use part. The basic technology of 3D printing is slicing a solid 3D model into individual layers and materializing that object one layer at a time.


3D printing has been around for more than 30 years. Over that time, a huge variety of higher accuracy, less expensive printers, and cost-effective printing materials have come to market. Simultaneously, the cost and means of creating or capturing a 3D model has improved dramatically. These increased capabilities coupled with lower costs translates to more applications that ‘make sense’ to be produced on a 3D Printer. Above all, the challenge is matching product applications to the materials and processes that lead to lower costs, enhance capability, provide shorter lead time, AND provide a value that exceeds the incremental costs of additive manufacturing.  


For example, a vehicle manufacturer wanted to add personalization to their sales offering. Specifically, they wanted to offer a variety of shift levers that could be personalized with customer defined slogans like “Mike’s Mid Life Crisis” or “Lucy’s Lotus”. Based on market research, they determined that only 10% of customers would be willing to pay for personalization. Among those willing to pay, it’s worth about $200 each. That information prompted the vehicle manufacturer to sort through the myriad of available printers and materials to find a solution. It would allow production of a single personalized knob for less than $100 each. Their findings easily support the case for capital investment in additive manufacturing capacities.  

Another, less obvious example, are injection molding tools that derive ‘incremental’ value from 3D printing. They do so through the ability to create features internal to the part that would otherwise not be possible.  In the case of injection mold tools, internal cooling channels are needed to rapidly solidify the injection molded parts. Using state of the art metal printers, tooling elements can be manufactured with internal cooling channels to reduce the time needed to solidify the plastic part. This translates directly to reduced cycle time, which in turn leads to lower production costs. In this example, the lower production costs far outweigh the incremental cost of producing the tooling elements with additive manufacturing methods.


In a nutshell, 3D printers have evolved to a point that it now makes sense to manufacture end-use parts in many cases. At Marando Industries we understand what it takes to make the jump to Additive Manufacturing. Like anyone who owns a 3D printer, we’ve made our share of trinkets & do-dads over the years. Today, we dedicate our capacities to designing and producing 3D printed ‘end-use’ parts in volume. Get in touch with us, and we’ll help you identify and implement the ideal additive manufacturing process to meet your productivity and cost goals.  

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