The outstanding feature of all AM techniques is their capability to produce parts of high geometrical complexity which cannot be manufactured by any other production technique. This works because of the tool-free layer-by-layer approach of all AM processes. Parts are produced based on 3D-CAD-model-data without any tooling needed.
The number of available materials is still limited compared to other processes such as milling or injection moulding, but the number of materials qualified for polymer and metal based processes is growing.
Many AM techniques offer part qualities which are comparable to those resulting from conventional manufacturing methods. The AM produced parts can be used and post processed (milled, drilled, coated) like any other standard industrial part. Especially in metal, AM produced parts often exceed some of the mechanical property values of those machined from standard bulk material.
Another benefit is the outstanding material efficiency of most AM processes. Scrap rates for AM parts are usually below 5%, compared to scrap rates of more than 90% with many complex milled parts. With a decline in available raw material and rising costs this material efficiency will remain a major advantage in the long term.
Looking to the future, it can be confidently predicted that AM is set to achieve an increasing market share of production processes, helped with the introduction of faster systems with more powerful lasers and larger building chambers. A significant number of materials will be qualified for AM and over time multi-material systems for many of the processes will become available.