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Additive Manufacturing VS 3D Printing

  • 6 min read

Understanding the Differences: Additive Manufacturing vs 3D Printing Explained

In the ever-evolving world of manufacturing technologies, additive manufacturing and 3D printing stand at the forefront of innovation, heralding new possibilities and efficiencies. These terms, while often used interchangeably, actually represent distinct aspects of modern manufacturing, each with its unique characteristics and applications. This blog aims to demystify these technologies, delving into what each term entails, and exploring the main distinctions between additive manufacturing vs 3d printing. Whether you are a professional in the field, a curious learner, or an enthusiast of modern technologies, this guide will provide you with a clear and comprehensive understanding of these transformative manufacturing techniques.

What is Additive Manufacturing?

Additive manufacturing, a transformative approach in the world of production, redefines the creation of objects through a layer-by-layer addition process. This innovative technique, which starkly contrasts traditional subtractive manufacturing methods that carve out objects from larger material blocks, has its roots tracing back to the 1980s with the advent of Stereolithography (SLA). This pioneering technology marked a paradigm shift, paving the way for a new era in manufacturing that emphasized precision, customization, and efficiency.
As additive manufacturing continued to evolve, it gave rise to a diverse array of technologies, each suited to different applications and materials. Prominent among these are Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), and Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS). FDM, widely recognized for its accessibility and ease of use, primarily employs thermoplastic filaments. In contrast, SLS and DMLS use powdered materials, with SLS focusing on plastics and polymers, and DMLS specializing in metal alloys. These methods have expanded the scope of additive manufacturing, allowing the creation of items with varying degrees of complexity, durability, and functionality.
Industries such as aerospace, automotive, and healthcare have swiftly integrated additive manufacturing into their operations. In aerospace, this technology has been a catalyst for producing lightweight yet sturdy components, significantly enhancing aircraft performance and fuel efficiency. The automotive sector leverages additive manufacturing for both prototyping and end-use parts, accelerating the design process and enabling more intricate and tailored vehicle components. In healthcare, additive manufacturing is revolutionizing the field with custom-made prosthetics, implants, and even bioprinting, offering personalized solutions for patient care.

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing, often seen as a specific application of additive manufacturing, refers to a group of manufacturing processes that create physical objects from digital designs by layering material. This technology has revolutionized the way we approach manufacturing, prototyping, and even artistic creation.
The process begins with a digital 3D model, typically created in a computer-aided design (CAD) program. This model is then sliced into thin, horizontal cross-sections by specialized software. These slices are sent to the 3D printer, which creates the object layer by layer. The materials used can vary widely, ranging from plastics and metals to concrete and even living tissue in biomedical applications.
A significant milestone in the evolution of 3D printing was the advent of affordable desktop printers in the early 21st century. This development marked a pivotal shift from 3D printing being an exclusive, costly technology used primarily in industrial settings to becoming a more accessible tool available to a broader audience.
As we delve deeper into the fascinating world of 3D printing, it's essential to explore how specific models and brands are pushing the boundaries of this technology. Moving from the broad strokes of 3D printing's capabilities and applications, we now focus on groundbreaking models that exemplify the advancements in this field. Our latest offerings, the ANKERMAKE M5 and M5C 3D Printers, are not just machines; they are the embodiment of cutting-edge technology tailored to meet the needs of both professionals and hobbyists.
AnkerMake M5 3D Printer: Redefining Speed and Precision
Price: $699.00
Setting a new standard in the industry, our AnkerMake M5 3D Printer is a marvel of speed and precision. Powered by PowerBoost™ 2.0, it achieves speeds up to 500 mm/s without sacrificing print quality. Its direct drive extruder and robust aluminum alloy structure guarantee 0.1 mm precision, even at accelerated speeds. The M5 is not just fast but smart, utilizing an integrated AI camera for meticulous printing and monitoring. Its 7×7 auto-leveling system, easy assembly, and significant print volume of 235×235×250 mm³ make it a top choice for enthusiasts seeking efficiency and quality.
AnkerMake M5C 3D Printer: Power and Efficiency in Your Hands
Price: $399.00
Our AnkerMake M5C 3D Printer is tailored for those who prioritize power and customization, featuring a customizable one-click button for streamlined operation. It mirrors the M5's 500 mm/s high-speed capability but adds a powerful extrusion flow rate of 35 mm³/s. The direct drive extruder ensures accurate motion control, while the all-metal hotend, operable at 300℃, broadens filament compatibility.

How is 3D Printing Different from Additive Manufacturing?

Having explored the fundamental concepts of these two pivotal technologies, we're now positioned to address the heart of the matter: the distinctions between 3D printing vs additive manufacturing. Let's delve into the key differences:

Scope and Application:

Additive Manufacturing:
Encompasses a wide range of technologies, including 3D printing, and is primarily used in industrial applications for creating complex parts, prototypes, and end-use products.
3D Printing: A specific type of additive manufacturing, more commonly used for smaller-scale projects in both personal and commercial settings.

Material Diversity:

Additive Manufacturing:
Utilizes a broader array of materials including metals, ceramics, and biomaterials, catering to specialized industrial needs.
3D Printing: Typically limited to a narrower range of materials, primarily various plastics and, in some advanced printers, metals.

Precision and Complexity:

Additive Manufacturing: Capable of producing parts with higher complexity and precision, often essential in fields like aerospace, automotive, and medical industries.
3D Printing: While capable of intricate designs, it is more suited for less complex projects and prototypes where ultra-high precision is not as critical.

Post-Processing Requirements:

Additive Manufacturing: Depending on the technology and material used, may require less post-processing, but industrial applications might involve specialized processes like heat treatment or surface finishing.
3D Printing: Often requires significant post-processing, including cleaning, curing, or sanding.

Quality and Strength of Finished Products:

Additive Manufacturing: In industrial settings, products are typically of higher strength and quality due to advanced materials and processes.
3D Printing: The strength and finish of products can vary significantly based on the printer and material.


Throughout this exploration of additive manufacturing vs 3D printing, we have uncovered the nuances that set these two technologies apart. While they share similarities in layer-by-layer construction, their applications, complexity and precision, and materials often differ, catering to diverse needs in the manufacturing world. Understanding these differences is crucial for anyone involved in industrial design, engineering, or manufacturing. As we continue to witness the growth and evolution of these technologies, it's evident that both additive manufacturing and 3D printing will remain pivotal in shaping the future of production and design.

Frequently Asked Question about “Additive Manufacturing vs 3D Printing”

What are some common materials used in additive manufacturing and 3D printing?

In additive manufacturing and 3D printing, a variety of materials are used to suit different applications. Common in 3D printing are plastics like PLA and ABS, known for their ease of use, and resins, preferred for detailed, smooth finishes. Additive manufacturing often involves metals such as titanium, stainless steel, and aluminum for their strength in industrial applications, along with advanced composites and ceramics for specialized needs like high thermal resistance. This range of materials enables everything from simple prototypes to complex, durable parts.

Can additive manufacturing and 3D printing be used for mass production?

Traditionally, both additive manufacturing and 3D printing have been most associated with prototyping and small batch production. However, with technological advancements, they are increasingly being adopted for mass production. Additive manufacturing is particularly making strides in industries where customized or complex parts are required, while 3D printing is seeing use in producing consumer goods, fashion items, and bespoke accessories.

Can individuals use additive manufacturing at home, or is it limited to industrial use?

Additive manufacturing has evolved from an industrial-only tool to a household technology with the advent of desktop 3D printers, enabling individuals to create everything from intricate models to practical household items. Yet, advanced, industrial-grade additive manufacturing machines, offering a broader range of materials and superior precision for complex tasks, remain predominant in professional settings, highlighting a distinct divide between home-based and industrial applications.