What is 3D printing

What is 3D printing?

There is probably no better example that can show how digital data can be turned into a tangible product at the touch of a button. The principle of manufacturing goods is practically reversed: So far, objects have mainly been formed by removing material, for example by milling, grinding, turning or planing a piece of metal or wood by machines or people (so-called machining or subtractive processing). In contrast, products are created in the so-called additive process in which material is applied in layers. This is why additive manufacturing is usually spoken of in the industrial environment and is formally referred to as such in ISO, for example. Nonetheless, the term 3D printing became very popular and is now used as the de facto standard for these manufacturing processes in the general public and in the leading media.

Additive manufacturing comprises several manufacturing technologies that are based on different principles and process different materials. Freedom of design, individualization and flexible production are the unique selling points of 3D printing and enable objects to be produced cost-efficiently and quickly even in small batches. Other benefits include weight reduction and less inventory. 3D printing should be viewed as a networked ecosystem. The value chain is a cross-company cooperative solution. From design to topology optimization and data preparation to the actual 3D printing and post-processing, digital business models are used.

Typical ICT topics can be found throughout the chain as a number of specialized software tools are used. Platforms network these and ensure product and know-how protection as well as IT security. Integrations in planning and control systems then combine 3D printers to form a digital factory. Software development processes and cloud computing represent the basis for new solutions and business models. For Bitkom, 3D printing is associated with the integration of processes in industrial production and further processing as well as their use in the consumer sector.