Today we are at the starting line of the digitization of manufacturing. This digital, technological revolution that we are witnessing is often referred to as the fourth industrial revolution, with the integration of cyber physical systems, where parts, machines and systems communicate with each other, and can predict failure and autonomously trigger a process change or preventative/predictive maintenance. Additive manufacturing (AM) is one of the core technologies within the decentralized smart manufacturing ecosystem of Industry 4.0.
AM, also known as 3D printing, has come a long way since 1986 when stereolithography (SLA) was first patented to form objects layer by layer using photo-curable resins (liquid photopolymers). The technology has advanced at a rapid pace to form objects using a wide variety of materials including metals, ceramics, glass, composites, biomaterials, and electronic materials. Metal AM has evolved from being limited to prototyping into a disruptive technology capable of fabricating complex, functional parts flying on jet engines today. There are multiple metal AM technologies available including powder bed fusion (PBF), directed energy deposition (DED), and binder jetting.