Terminology and Definitions

Note: Much of the following was excerpted from Wohlers Report 2022.

Additive manufacturing (AM) as defined by the ISO/ASTM 52900 terminology standard is the process of joining materials to make parts from 3D model data. Usually, material is joined layer upon layer, as opposed to subtractive and formative methods of manufacturing. Other terms for AM include 3D printing, additive fabrication, direct digital manufacturing, freeform fabrication, solid freeform fabrication, rapid manufacturing, and rapid prototyping.

Rapid prototyping is one of the most popular applications of additive manufacturing (AM), a technology used for building physical models and prototype parts from 3D computer-aided design (CAD) and medical scan data. Unlike CNC machines tools, which are subtractive in nature, AM systems join together liquid, powder, and sheet materials to form complex parts. Layer by layer, they fabricate plastic, wood,  ceramic, and metal objects based on thin horizontal cross-sections taken from a computer model.

Reverse engineering encompasses a variety of approaches to reproducing a physical object with the aid of drawings, documentation, or computer model data. In the broadest sense, reverse engineering is whatever it takes—manual or under computer control—to reproduce an object.

3D scanning systems are used for the reverse engineering of mechanical parts and organic shapes. Manufacturing professionals apply them to the creation of new patterns for prototype tooling, metal casting, and CNC machining. Medical specialists use 3D scanning to digitize bones and other anatomy for the development of prosthetics and implants. Video production experts use them to capture difficult-to-create shapes for TV commercials and special effects in Hollywood films.

3D scanning permits you to create a digital model from a physical object. The process is appealing because it can be difficult to create computer models of complex shapes. Recreating an existing part from scratch, even with a computer, is like copying a printed page by retyping it, although 3D scanners are not nearly as straightforward as a photocopy machine, the intent is the same.

Faro Laser ScanArm, courtesy of Faro Technologies

Note: All schematics are courtesy of Steffen Ritter. Much of the following was excerpted from Wohlers Report 2022.

Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, creates a part by adding material layer upon layer. Read What is Additive Manufacturing? for more details on the process. The ISO/ASTM 52900 terminology standard categorizes commercially available AM systems into seven distinct processes by the way layers of material are created. Most AM systems fit into one of the seven categories. One exception is cold spray. Future AM processes could develop that do not fit into one of the categories, which could require an update to the ISO/ASTM 52900 standard.

Note: Much of the following was excerpted from Wohlers Report 2022.

When additive manufacturing (AM) was introduced, the number of materials was limited. Some may argue that this is still the case. As the industry has advanced, the availability of materials has expanded to include many polymers, composites, metals, ceramics, and biomaterials. According to research for Wohlers Report 2022, polymers remain the most popular, followed by metals.

In the broadest sense, rapid tooling is any method or technology that enables you to produce tooling quickly. Many business agree, however, that it means tooling driven by an additive manufacturing (AM) process is the key to making it rapid.

The second category is a direct approach, meaning that an AM process builds the core and cavity mold inserts directly, in the case of injection mold tooling. Direct metal laser sintering from EOS has been used to produce these types of tools.

Learn more about ASTM and AM CoE

ASTM unites with the Wohlers brand to build on its market influence and access to top AM industry decision-makers worldwide.

  • Establish standards, certification, and qualification for repeatable, consistent parts and processes
  • Prevent gaps and duplication of work in a dynamic, fast-paced technology space
  • Identify challenges that can be solved with technological improvement

Research and Development

Under the leadership of the R&D team, the AM CoE partners plan and conduct coordinated R&D projects, prioritized annually and targeted to expedite...

Learn More

Education and Workforce Development

Provide a comprehensive program that educates and trains the additive manufacturing workforce at all levels, while continually incorporating new advances...

Learn More