Is there a difference between 3D printing and additive manufacturing if any then explain?


I see several answers to that.

A lot of persons say 3d printing while they really mean additive manufacturing. For them, the machine got a 3d part out of raw material as a 2d printer got them images out of sheets.

Some persons think that 3d printing refers to lowpriced polymers additive manufacturing machines while additive manufacturing refers to industrial, expansive equipment like the so-called "DMLS"or "SLM".

Others persons say that additive manufacturing processes that use 2d-printers heads (ink injectors, such as HP additive manufacturing machines) should be called 3d printers and 3d printing because it's so similar to 2d printers.

I consider that "3d printer" should be avoided in general, because it is way too vague and referring to way too much different things. But it is up to anyone using these words, I just think that a serious person wouldn't use "3d printer" given all the mismatch that it could generate. I think we should use the exact process' name instead (like FDM for low-priced additive manufacturing polymer machines), or if you refer to the overall technology, use additive manufacturing.


Yes and No at the same time:

3D Printing is a subset of Additive Manufacturing

but treated as a synonym at this time

3D printing is a process that takes some material, in a fluid state that fuses with the model to shape an object from it. The material could be plastics, ceramic paste or even metal. The fluid state could be the normal state, or just be present for the fusing process (think powder and resin based systems), or be a transitional phase (as in filament based systems).

Additive manufacturing is just a slight bit bigger: at the moment most, if not all, AM processes are some sort of 3D printing. But AM could include other processes that don't fit 3D printing. For example, an automatic bricklaying machine could, under some view, be Additive Manufacturing, but it is not 3D printing in the traditional sense.

So: All 3D Printing is Additive Manufacturing, but not all Additive Manufacturing is necessarily 3D Printing.

  • $\begingroup$ I would think automated welding could be considered AM, yet is not 3D Printing. $\endgroup$ – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Nov 19 '18 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 under some ways, yes. There are welding-robots that do pretty much "print" (So AM or even 3D printing) but most automatic welder arms just join parts, which is not in the definition of 3D printing but falls under "Automated Assembly". And somethies... the tred bring forth "Atomated Manufacturing" like youtube.com/watch?v=odGEzRRDfxo $\endgroup$ – Trish Nov 19 '18 at 17:36


3D printing and additive manufacturing (AM) both refer to a range of processes where, opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies, materials are joined to create products. E.g. FFF, SLS, etc.

From this reference you see a reference to 3D printing:

Additive manufacturing is the official industry standard term (ASTM F2792) for all applications of the technology. It is defined as the process of joining materials to make objects from 3D model data, usually layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive manufacturing methodologies.

From e.g. this reference one reads that there is no difference:

Between the terms 3D printing and additive manufacturing, there is no difference. 3D printing and additive manufacturing are synonyms for the same process.

Useage now

However, as the AM processes and applications grew in time, 3D printing has become a subset of AM. As worded by Peter Zelinski in August 2017:

To be sure, the terms overlap. They can be used in ways that make them sound like synonyms. But the relationship between them and the difference between them is this: 3D printing is the operation at the heart of additive manufacturing, just as “turning” or “molding” might be the operation at the heart of a conventional manufacturing process. In short, additive manufacturing requires and includes 3D printing, but it also entails more than 3D printing, and it refers to something more rigorous.


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