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Additive Manufacture (AM), often referred to as 3D-Printing, is a process of building up parts or tools layer by layer. There are a range of processes and different materials that can be deposited to ‘print’. The technology to allow automated building by AM evolved from the 1980’s through the 1990’s providing laser cured and laser sintered parts which were used as prototypes to check form and fit, at that time known under the collective term ‘Rapid Prototyping’. The modern derivation of this technology is a family of processes accurately creating solid objects from source material in liquid, powder, molten, and solidified form.
The common elements to all the Additive Manufacturing processes is the data processing steps taking a 3-dimensional computer model then layer-by-layer building a solid form without human intervention. Most processes use powder source material which is laser sintered in thin layers, each layer adhering to the previous one. The range of materials available to Additive Manufacturing is continuously expanding. Although the most commonly used ‘desktop’ or ‘3D-print’ materials are polymers, other materials include metals and ceramics.