What is Additive Manufacturing, and how does it differ from 3D printing?

Additive Manufacturing is a lean manufacturing process and platform which enables the ability to use 3D printing technologies to produce commercial quality parts cost-effectively in low volumes. AM is much more than just 3D printing!

Put simply, plastic AM is the production of low- to mid-volumes of parts suitable for many end-use applications.

It requires three key components:
  1. industrial grade commercial quality 3D printer(s)
  2. availability of a cost-effective range of the appropriate engineering thermoplastic materials for end-use parts
  3. the knowledge and expertise to make all of these components work together in a lean process with a new way of thinking

The Plural team’s experience and broad expertise enables us to bring all of these components together to deliver low- to mid-volume* parts at costs averaging 50% less** than parts with the same functionality produced using CNC machining, injection molding or other traditional fabrication methods.

The answer is currently not the same for all 3D printing materials and processes, however. Metal AM, for example, has a set of benefits other than cost. We can help you determine if there is a fit today for any of your parts.

Contact us for your free AM Investigation today!

How do I find out if AM is right for me?

You probably know the answer to this one by now! It takes a discovery to analyze your current parts and determine whether or not there is an ROI for you at this point. If a basic ROI exists, then you will also profit from other AM benefits such as:
  • Freedom to design parts and sub-assemblies for the design, not for the manufacturing processes (DFM*)
  • Have inventory on demand for both production and spare parts
  • Eliminate costs of inventory and the time lag of supply chains


  • Gain the ability to quickly prototype with the same process with which you will manufacture — true rapid prototypes!
*DFM becomes Design for Additive Manufacturing (DFAM). There are many benefits that we can help you realize!

We have a 3D printer, and now it just sits in a storage closet. Why would this be any different?

Many people have purchased hobby quality 3D printers to try out 3D printing. Unfortunately, for most industrial applications, hobby-level* 3D printers don’t produce parts of commercial quality (precision, repeatability, and often, surface finish). They are also typically very fussy to get and keep running, don’t produce parts in the right materials, and can’t print parts with complex geometries.

Hobby printers are called hobby printers for many good reasons! Just as you don’t use DIY quality tools in your production environment, you typically can’t successfully use hobby printers either.

*Hobby level printers are typically defined as those that cost under $10,000, and just aren’t suitable, for a variety of reasons, for commercial duty use.

How does designing for current manufacturing methods differ from designing for additive manufacturing?

Most of us have spent the majority of our careers learning DFM, and it has been critical to reaching the current state of part and product quality, and reliability. DFAM, however, adds a whole new range of design freedom. Your parts and products can now have a high degree of complexity at no cost penalty.


With AM, multiple parts can often be merged into one printable part that eliminates the tolerances and cost required to make three (or 4 or more) different parts and assemble them.

For example, additive manufacturing can create a crosshatch pattern in a shape that reduces weight and material needed, and in some cases, improves physical properties.

Along the same lines, multiple parts can be designed as one assembly with the clearance built into the joints. Once the parts have had the support material removed (if needed, depends on design) they become mechanisms.

AM also allows for a wide range of infill* inside a part which can significantly reduce the weight and amount of material needed per part without compromising strength.

AM introduces a whole new range of design capabilities; the more you use it the more it benefits your products.

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