As a nascent technology, additive manufacturing is transforming to an integral manufacturing process. Additive manufacturing processes include not only 3D printing, but also direct rapid prototyping, energy deposition, material extrusion, sheet welding, and digital light processing, among others.
Coupled with electronic communications and connectivity, additive manufacturing allows for remote design and production of parts, as well as rapid customization of parts. AM has the potential to significantly transform the supply chain, logistics and transportation, and inventory requirements. Some issues that have resulted in AM's introduction to the production floor include:
- As additive manufacturing is a relatively new technology, there is a lack of standardization in the field and familiarity by traditional manufacturers.
- There are limited types of materials for large-scale production.
- Most of the awareness of the techniques and tools of AM come through the workforce as a specialization/interest.
Other technology roadmaps have highlighted the transformative potential of additive manufacturing (Piazza and Alexander, 2015a). Movement from research environment to production environment is still being predicted and standards and best practices are needed.