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Communications of the ACM


Out-of-This-World Additive Manufacturing

'3D' as three-dimensional characters

Credit: Alicia Kubista / Andrij Borys Associates

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Popular culture uses the term 3D printing as a synonym for additive manufacturing processes. In 2010, the American Society for Testing and Materials group ASTM F42—Additive Manufacturing—came up with a set of standards to classify additive manufacturing processes into seven categories. Each process uses different materials and machine technology, which affects the use cases and applications, as well as the economics. I went down a rabbit hole researching the various processes in my hunt to buy the best 3D printer. You can read my reviews on my blog. In this article, I will share a bit of what I learned about each process, as well as some of the more interesting use cases I found along the way.

Additive manufacturing has a variety of use cases ranging from thingamabobs to jewelry to metal parts for complex systems to even immense, exciting things like building a boat7 or rockets to go into space. Yes, you read that right, both Relativity Space and Launcher Space are using additive manufacturing to build rockets that launch satellites (or other cargo) into space. Relativity Space even built its own additive manufacturing machine, named Stargate, for this purpose, while Launcher partnered with Additive Manufacturing Customized Machines on its engine, E-2.


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