Classification of Additive Manufacturing Systems

A better way to broadly classify AM systems is by the initial form of their material; all AM systems can be easily categorized into:

  • A) Liquid-based
  • B) Solid-based
  • C) Powder-based


Building materials are in liquid state and the following additive manufacturing systems fall under this category (Figure 1.7):

i. Stereolithography apparatus (SLA)

ii. PolyJet 3D printing

iii. Multijet printing (MJP)

iv. Solid object ultraviolet-laser printer (SOUP)

v. Rapid freeze prototyping


The building material is in solid state (excluding powder). The solid type may include the shape of the wire, rolls, laminates, and pellets. The following AM systems fall under this category: i. Fused deposition modeling (FDM)

ii. Selective deposition lamination (SDL)

iii. Laminated object manufacturing (LOM)

iv. Ultrasonic consolidation


Building material is powder (a type of grain). All powder-based AM systems use the

joining/binding method. The following AM systems fall under this category:

i. Selective laser sintering (SLS)

ii. ColorJet printing (CJP)

iii. Laser engineered net shaping (LENS)

iv. Electron beam melting (EBM), etc.

Advantages and Limitations

  • 1. Layer by layer production makes the design process much more flexible and creative. Designers no longer need to design for production; rather they can build a component that is lighter and stronger by means of better design. Parts can be fully re-designed in such a way that they are stronger in the places they need to be and lighter overall.
  • 2. 3D printing significantly accelerates the design and prototyping process. There’s no problem creating one part at a time, and changing the design every time it’s produced. Parts can be created in hours. The design time is taken down to days or weeks, opposed to months. Also, as the price of 3D printers has decreased over the years, some 3D printers are now within the financial reach of ordinary consumers or small companies.
  • 3. In general, the drawbacks of 3D printing include costly hardware and expensive materials. This leads to expensive parts, making it difficult to compete with mass production. A CAD designer is also needed to create what the consumer has in mind and can be costly if the component is very complex.
  • 4. 3D printing is not the solution for everyone involved in the production method; however, its improvement is helping to accelerate design and engineering more than ever before. Through the use of 3D printers, designers are able to create one piece of art, intricate building and product designs, and make parts while in space!
  • 5. Many industries are beginning to see the impact of 3D printing. There have been articles saying that 3D printing will bring about the next industrial revolution, by returning a means of production back within reach of the designer or the consumer.
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