Additive manufacturing (AM) refers to the application of 3D printing to create functional, industrial components including prototypes, tooling and end-use production parts. AM’s advantages include the freedom to produce small batches of intricate parts cost-effectively, as well as the freedom to realize part designs that would not be manufacturable in any other way, and in some cases to use materials that otherwise would be impractical to apply. The range of processes finding industrial applications includes direct metal deposition, electron beam melting, polymer processes such as fused filament fabritcation (FFF), and select laser sintering (SLS) or melting (SLM), among others. Some hybrid machine tools combine additive manufacturing with subtractive CNC machining. Modern Machine Shop has a sister magazine, Additive Manufacturing, that focuses on AM.

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Additive Manufacturing: Essential Reading

3 Uses for a Composite Polymer 3D Printer in a CNC Machine Shop

When RPG purchased its metal 3D printer, a polymer printer was part of the deal. Three uses this job shop has found for this fused filament fabrication system. 

4 Ways Robots and 3D Printing Intersect

Four examples of how robotic automation and additive manufacturing both help and are helped by each other.

Plotting a Pathway to Profitable Additive Manufacturing

The cost per pound for a metal AM part may be shocking, but that knowledge is essential to plan a journey to success with Additive Manufacturing.

Real Examples of 3D Printing in the Automotive Industry

3D printed end-use parts are going onto vehicles with increasing frequency. Recent real-world examples showcase additive manufacturing benefits in design, weight savings and more. 

Beginning Your AM Journey: One Part to Begin the Path

Identifying the right part to begin your additive manufacturing path can demonstrate and validate the AM workflow, provide a benchmark for future work and more.


FAQ: Additive Manufacturing

What is additive manufacturing?

“Additive manufacturing” (AM) describes the use of 3D printing to make functional components, including tools and end-use production parts. Unlike “subtractive manufacturing” processes such as machining, where parts are created by removing material, additive manufacturing builds geometries by “adding” feedstock such as filament, wire or powder. 

Depending on the 3D printing process and application, additive manufacturing can utilize a growing catalog of materials including metal alloys, thermoplastics, thermoset polymers and composites.

Source: What is Additive Manufacturing?

Is additive manufacturing the same as 3D printing?

Some say yes and we say no! AM and 3D printing are overlapping terms but not synonyms. 3D printing is the operation at the heart of additive manufacturing, just as “turning” or “molding” might be the operation at the heart of a conventional manufacturing process.

In a nutshell, 3D printing is one step in an overall additive manufacturing workflow that also includes design, build preparation, postprocessing, business considerations and more. 

Importantly, “3D printing” does not describe just one type of technology. Per ISO/ASTM, there are seven different “families” of 3D printing processes and a growing number of material and machine options.

Source: What is Additive Manufacturing?

Why use additive manufacturing?

Some associate AM with prototyping, but this is outdated. 3D printing has become well-established as a means of creating tooling for a range of conventional processes. And, manufacturers are increasingly adopting AM for production, including full-scale production.

Source: What is Additive Manufacturing?

What are some trends in additive manufacturing?

Source: What is Additive Manufacturing?

What is Formnext Chicago?


Formnext Chicago is an industrial additive manufacturing expo taking place April 8-10, 2025 at McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois.

Formnext Chicago is part of a series of Formnext events in the U.S. being produced by Mesago Messe Frankfurt, AMT – The Association For Manufacturing Technology, and Gardner Business Media (our publisher).

Here is the full lineup of Formnext events in North America:

  • Formnext Forum Austin took place in August 2023 and will return to Texas in 2026.
  • Additive Manufacturing Sector Powered by Formnext at IMTS in 2024
  • Formnext Chicago in 2025




Additive Manufacturing Suppliers

Go Digital: How to Succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution With Additive Manufacturing

The digitalization of manufacturing is set to transform production and global supply chains as we know them, and additive manufacturing has been leading the way in many industries.
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Meltio Offers Toolpath Generator Software for Metal 3D Printing

Meltio Horizon uses the laser-wire metal deposition process with the Meltio M450.

4 Ways 3D Printing Is Changing Medical Implants

Additive manufacturing provides new ways of making medical implants, but its impact is greater than this. How 3D printing is changing medical manufacturing and improving patient outcomes. 

Does Metal Additive Manufacturing Belong in a Machine Shop? The Answer Is Mixed

Machining is a necessary capability for metal part production through 3D printing, but succeeding with metal AM demands a role and procedures much different from those of many machining providers.

Meltio Launches Laser Calibration System for Metal 3D Printing

The system features a laser alignment camera that is placed under the printhead to provide a clear view of the focus point of the lasers.

Saving Time and Money on the Shop Floor with AM

The ways additive manufacturing is presented sometimes miss the most practical and valuable ways it can be used.