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Difference between 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing

In this world of modern technology where everything we do involves tech in one way or another. 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing play an important role in this world of modern industry. We can use them to create customized designs to create specific products according to the needs of a customer. Even if it comes to creating complex designs where other technologies may lack, 3D printing, and additive manufacturing can complete such tasks with high details. They can also reduce the need for warehousing and long-distance shipping as they can be used on demand. Both technologies play an important role in their own way in different industries such as in the field of medicine they can be used to create exact prosthetics, implants and Invisalign, which leads to advancement in health care. These technologies also help artists and designers to push their limits to be creative.

They also have become an important tool in education and research, to create models and prototypes which can help in studying and researching. Yet even though these technologies have been around for a while now, there’s still confusion regarding these two terms. There are many things that set these two technologies apart. So, it’s become important to untie the knot of confusion between these two, so that they can be used distinctively in their own respective manner. By the end of this blog, you will have a clear understanding of how these technologies are shaping the future and differ from each other. So, let’s get ready to uncover the differences that make all the difference.

Defining 3D Printing

3D Printing is the process of creating a three-dimensional object from a digital design provided, it creates the 3D object by using a material and it adds it layer by layer to create the exact model of the design provided. You have complete control over everything such as the object’s shape, design, structure, and angles. This layer-by-layer method of adding material allows the product to be precise and highly customized.

3D printing has experienced significant growth over the years. Early 3D printers used plastic but now different materials, such as metals, ceramics and polymers can be used. Even edible objects can be created. Modern 3D printers are faster, precise, cost effective and can create highly detailed objects compared to the old technologies and they keep evolving over time and keep getting better and better. 3D printing has various applications in different fields such as:


It’s employed for prototyping, crafting preliminary designs to serve as models before the full-scale production of the actual product.

Tailored Creations:

3D printing finds utility in crafting bespoke items, including personalized objects, dental enhancements, and prosthetic devices.

Aviation and Automotive Industries:

In these sectors, 3D printing is harnessed for fashioning lightweight components characterized by intricate geometries, fostering enhanced fuel efficiency, and heightened operational performance.

Revolutionizing Healthcare:

Within the medical realm, 3D printing is at the vanguard of transformative changes, yielding specific implants, anatomical models for surgical planning, and even the pioneering development of 3D-printed organs.

Artistry and Couture:

Artists and fashion visionaries turn to 3D printing to manifest distinctive sculptures, jewelry, and avant-garde fashion statements.

Educational Enhancements:

In educational contexts, it serves as an invaluable tool, facilitating students’ comprehension of intricate concepts through tangible, hands-on models.

Architectural and Building Applications:

3D printing is instrumental in the creation of architectural prototypes, building components, and even miniature house models, employing specialized construction 3D printers.

Culinary Innovation:

In the culinary sphere, it is wielded to craft edible creations, ornate cake embellishments, and personalized confections, pushing the boundaries of culinary artistry.

Understanding Additive Manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing is an innovative production method that uses various techniques to craft three-dimensional objects. Unlike conventional manufacturing approaches, which involve carving material from a solid block to shape the final product, additive manufacturing takes a unique approach. It constructs objects by adding material layer by layer, offering superior precision and control.

Layer-by-Layer Construction

At the heart of additive manufacturing lies a layer-by-layer assembly process. This process is the precise addition of material, one layer at a time, to gradually build an object in accordance with a provided digital design.

3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing

The Overlapping Terminology

We use both “3D printing” and “additive manufacturing” because these terms have a bit of a history and cover different sides of the same technology. Here’s why:

Starting Point:

“3D printing” was the first term people got to know. It’s like the friendly face of technology, often seen as small machines at home or school making little plastic things.

Easy to Grasp:

“3D printing” sounds simple, and it’s easy to understand. You think of a printer creating stuff layer by layer, which is pretty much how it works.

Bigger Picture:

But as this technology grew up, it started doing more serious things, like making parts for airplanes, medical devices, and car stuff. That’s where “additive manufacturing” comes into play. It’s the grown-up term used in industries to talk about these advanced uses.

Techniques in Additive Manufacturing

In additive manufacturing, various techniques stand out, each with its unique materials, processes, and real-world uses;

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

FDM uses thermoplastic filaments, like those in everyday plastics. Material is melted and precisely deposited layer by layer through a nozzle, forming the object. FDM excels in rapid prototyping, DIY projects, and crafting functional parts.

Stereolithography (SLA)

SLA employs liquid photopolymers that solidify under UV light. A laser or UV light solidifies the liquid resin layer by layer, creating detailed objects. SLA is perfect for high-detail prototypes, jewelry, dental models, and precision parts.

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)

SLS works with powdered materials like plastics, metals, or ceramics. A laser selectively fuses powdered material layer by layer, forming complex, durable objects. SLS finds use in aerospace, automotive, and medical industries, creating intricate components.

Binder Jetting

This technique combines powdered materials (metals, ceramics, or sand) with a liquid binder. The binder is precisely sprayed onto the powder layer by layer, shaping the object. Binder jetting crafts metal parts, sand molds for casting, and architectural models with ease.

Electron Beam Melting (EBM)

EBM primarily deals with metal powders, such as titanium or cobalt-chrome. An electron beam selectively melts metal powder in a high-temperature vacuum, layer by layer. EBM shines in aerospace and medical industries, producing robust metal components.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)

DMLS employs metal powders like aluminum, stainless steel, or titanium. A high-power laser fuses the metal powder layer by layer, yielding strong and intricate metal parts. DMLS is vital in aerospace, automotive, and medical fields, creating durable, lightweight metal components.


Bioprinting uses bioinks composed of living cells, growth factors, and biomaterials. The printer deposits bioink layer by layer, constructing living tissues or organ-like structures. Bioprinting aids medical research by modeling tissues and holds promise for organ transplantation advancements.

These techniques offer a broad range of possibilities, serving diverse needs across industries, and continually advancing the capabilities of additive manufacturing.

3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing

3D Printing vs. Additive Manufacturing: Key Differences

At their core, 3D printing, and additive manufacturing share the foundational concept of layer-by-layer object creation. However, they distinctly diverge in scope and usage.

3D Printing

  1. Consumer-Centric: 3D printing is closely associated with consumer-level, small-scale applications. Think of it as desktop printers crafting personalized trinkets or prototypes.
  2. Accessible Terminology: The term “3D printing” is straightforward and relatable to the public, signifying its ease of use.
  3. Material Simplicity: 3D printing typically relies on user-friendly materials, such as plastics, ideal for home and educational settings.

Additive Manufacturing

  1. Industrial Emphasis: Additive manufacturing extends its reach into industrial and professional domains, encompassing a diverse array of techniques and materials. It’s the preferred term for these contexts.
  2. Expansive Utility: Additive manufacturing caters to extensive industries, including aerospace, healthcare, and automotive, where it plays a critical role in crafting intricate, mission-critical components.
  3. Material Versatility: Additive manufacturing boasts a wide spectrum of materials, from metals to ceramics, suited for specialized applications.

Materials Used

Materials in 3D Printing

In 3D printing, materials are typically tailored for consumer-level and smaller-scale applications:

Plastics: This category includes popular options like ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and PLA (Polylactic Acid). They’re user-friendly and perfect for crafting prototypes, toys, and everyday items.

Resins: Liquid photopolymers harden when exposed to UV light in resin-based 3D printing. They shine when high-detail models, dental molds, or intricate jewelry are on the agenda.

Metals: While less common, some consumer-level 3D printers can dabble in metal filaments. However, this isn’t as widespread as plastics.

Materials in Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing, with its broader industrial scope, taps into a more extensive material;

Ceramics: Techniques like ceramic 3D printing come into play, ideal for creating intricate, heat-resistant components, especially in aerospace and healthcare.

Polymers: Going beyond plastics, additive manufacturing embraces various specialized polymers. From everyday thermoplastics to advanced high-performance variants, these serve diverse roles, from aerospace to medical applications.

Composites: Additive manufacturing’s versatility enables the crafting of composite materials. These amalgamate multiple substances, enhancing properties such as strength and heat resistance.

Metals: Additive manufacturing takes a keen interest in metals, catering to industries like aerospace and automotive. Materials like titanium, stainless steel, and aluminum forge robust, high-strength components.

Biomaterials: In the realm of bioprinting, additive manufacturing harnesses bioinks and biomaterials. These encompass living cells, growth factors, and biocompatible substances, revolutionizing medical research and regenerative medicine.


  • 3D printing is very important in development and allows designers to create and test prototypes.
  • 3D printing plays an important role in creating daily life products which can be helpful.
  • In the medical field, 3D printing revolutionized patient care, creating prosthetics, implants, and surgical models. It even pushes the boundaries of 3D-printed organs and tissue for regenerative medicine.
  • Aerospace is an important part of today’s world; with additive manufacturing we can create lightweight components and improve fuel efficiency and be cost effective.
  • Additive manufacturing extends its reach into industrial and professional domains, encompassing a diverse array of techniques and materials. It’s the preferred term for these contexts.
  • In the medical field, additive manufacturing plays a vital role because we can build implants and prosthetics etc., which are specific to the needs of patients.

Cost and Scalability

3D printing is often chosen for smaller-scale applications like prototyping and personalized items due to its affordability, with lower equipment and material expenses. However, it may lose cost-effectiveness as production scales. In contrast, additive manufacturing, despite potentially higher initial costs, excels in scalability, becoming increasingly cost-efficient with rising production volumes. This makes it an ideal choice for industries such as aerospace and automotive, which require substantial quantities of precise components. Additive manufacturing’s capacity to efficiently produce complex, high-value parts suits sectors emphasizing precision and high-volume production, while 3D printing is better suited for smaller-scale applications and rapid prototyping.

Future Trends

Recent advances in materials science are presenting novel materials that might transform medicine and recyclable alternatives that are in line with sustainable production methods, opening up new possibilities. The most recent printing technologies and extremely exact procedures are aiding continuous attempts to boost speed and precision. These advancements foster sustainability by lowering waste and enabling local, on-demand production, which is better for the environment. They not only signify progress. These innovations might revolutionize the way goods are produced and distributed in conventional manufacturing because they are altering the way supply chains function, decentralizing production, and reducing our reliance on massive warehouses and long-distance transportation.


In summary, the key differences between 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing revolve around where they are used and applications. 3D printing leans towards smaller-scale, consumer-oriented uses, emphasizing simplicity and accessibility. It typically utilizes materials like plastics and resins, making it suitable for personalized items and prototyping. In contrast, additive manufacturing has a wider range of applications, such as industrial sectors, aerospace, automotive, and healthcare. It offers many choices in materials, including metals and ceramics enabling the creation of accurate and high-stakes components.

Recognizing these differences is vital when choosing the right technology for your purposes. 3D printing suits rapid prototyping, customized consumer goods, and healthcare applications, emphasizing personalization and user-friendliness. Additive manufacturing excels in industries that demand precision and large-scale production, like automotive, thanks to its material diversity and scalability. The choice between the two is to understand their benefits, ensuring that the selected technology aligns with the unique requirements of each application, ultimately adding innovation and progress in various sectors.

Lucas Neill
Lucas Neill
My heart beats to the rhythm of technology's innovations, a love affair with the future that's everlasting and electric. Technology, my eternal muse, lighting up my path with possibilities beyond imagination. 🚀💻🔮


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