Additive manufacturing works by creating 3D objects in layers. Base materials like steel, titanium, plastic, composites, ceramics or even paper are inserted into a machine. A worker then designs the object on a connected computer using CAD software. Upon execution of the additive manufacturing task, the machine deposits small amounts of materials to create fine layers, beginning at the bottom.
The terms “additive manufacturing” and “3D printing” are often used interchangeably. They both refer to the use of CAD software and machines to create 3D objects from base materials. However, additive manufacturing is generally used to describe a more advanced manufacturing technique in which objects are created in layers, whereas 3D printing — available to businesses as well as individuals — is a simpler manufacturing technique that often involves the controlled removal of material to create a 3D object in the desired shape. Some 3D printers also create 3D objects in layers, though many simply reshape a large block or cylinder of material to create a new object.