Additive Manufacturing 101

Elizabeth Ruiz, Editor, Maintenance World

Posted 4/17/2024


Additive manufacturing is changing and improving the manufacturing process in many industries. The methods eliminate the need for traditional subtractive processes, offering benefits like reduced waste and faster prototyping. In 2024, the industry is witnessing advancements in materials and technologies, integration with digital manufacturing, and a focus on reducing emissions. AM can not only improve reliability and maintenance, but also increases supply chain resilience.

What is Additive Manufacturing?

Additive manufacturing (AM) refers to technologies that build 3D objects in superfine layers of melted or partially melted material. AM means adding material to create an object. It takes away the need for removing material through milling, machining, carving, shaping, etc. when manufacturing an object. Computer-aided-design (CAD) software is used in AM to separate the object into the layers used to build it. That information directs the nozzle or print head in creating the object layer by layer. Alternatively, a laser or electron beam can selectively melt or partially melt in a bed of powdered material. The materials form a 3D object as they cool or cure. 

AM has existed for around 30 years. In this time, it has helped organizations with performance improvement, complex mathematics, and simplified manufacturing. It can be used in industrial manufacturing for product development, aerospace for lighter parts, medical for patient-specific applications, and automotive for rapid prototyping. It is common to hear additive manufacturing called 3D printing or rapid prototyping, but those are actually subsets of AM. (1) 

additive manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing Processes and Technologies

There are many different additive manufacturing processes to choose from. Check out the list below and click the links to learn more about each type. Which one is right for your organization? (1) (2)

Additive Manufacturing Processes:
Additive Manufacturing Technologies:

Additive Manufacturing 2024

The global market for additive manufacturing is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 23.6% until 2030. Reasons for this rapid growth include an increasing demand for complex and customized parts, the increase in use of AM in different industries, improvement and advancement of additive tech and materials, environmental uses, and support from the government. (3)

Let’s take a look at some of the major additive manufacturing trends in 2024: 

New technologies and materials:  New additive technologies such as directed energy deposition (DED) offer advantages such as higher speed, lower cost, larger build volume, and multi-material capabilities. New materials such as high-performance superalloys and composites have better mechanical properties, functionality, biocompatibility, and are more sustainable. 

Integration with other technologies:  Additive manufacturing is part of a larger digital manufacturing ecosystem which includes AI, IoT, cloud computing, blockchain, robotics, and AR. Combing AM with these technologies allows organizations to automate, optimize, monitor, and verify the whole manufacturing process chain. 

Reducing corporate CO2 emissions:  Industrial additive manufacturing offers manufacturers the option of replacing the physical value chain with a virtual one. Due to this, more companies are considering AM to help reach emission reduction goals. It would cut down on the need for delivering products long distances, reducing fuel emission. AM also promotes reshoring manufacturing back to the US (which reduces emissions related to shipping). 

Development of standards and regulations:  As of now, there is a lack of standards and regulations to ensure quality, safety, reliability, and performance of parts made by AM. 2024 may see necessary new laws/standards related to AM in industrial manufacturing. (3)

How can AM Improve Reliability and Maintenance and the Manufacturing Process as a Whole?

Additive manufacturing is finding it’s place in reliability and maintenance. It allows organizations to produce parts requiring special materials that are expensive to replace. AM reinforces long-term maintainability by replacing traditional methods and eliminating some of the problems that come with them. Read the benefits and capabilities listed below to see how AM can help with inventory management and reduce overall manufacturing lead time. 

Reduced Waste:  AM can help reduce waste and cost by allowing redesign of products and components, reducing scrap, reducing or eliminating material requirements, and creating new products and design possibilities. 3D printing spare parts is advantageous due to the use of lightweight materials, fewer resources are needed, can be done on a large scale, and is inexpensive.

Increased Material Efficiency:  Using metals in additive manufacturing improves the efficiency of material. It can be produced faster and installed directly in the field. Reliability and maintenance professionals are also able to execute repairs quickly in the field with this material. 

Lowered Maintenance Costs:  The use of these materials and the fast and efficient work they allow can help keep maintenance costs down. (4)

Faster Prototyping:  Prototyping of a product or component can be done faster and cheaper than for normal production. It creates the opportunity to go through a number of iterations within the time it would have taken for one prototype. It is simple to adjust the design in CAD and then print a new version to test immediately.

Faster Time to Repair:  If you are missing a replacement part and need it now, 3D printing allows maintenance teams to print the part and get the equipment functioning again without having to wait for delivery.

Reduced Inventory:  The ability to print parts as needed frees up space and money in the inventory. It also helps reduce slow-moving, obsolete, or deteriorating parts taking space in the storeroom. 

Prolonged Equipment Life:  Being able to print parts for older equipment that might not be available anymore extends the life equipment that is older but still functioning that would otherwise have to be replaced. (5)

Increased Supply Chain Resilience:  AM reduces the time and increases the flexibility of production. It allows organizations to remedy supply disruptions fast without having to keep an expensive inventory of parts that may not be used. This can help prevent bottlenecks in forging and casting supply chains. (6)


Additive manufacturing (AM) is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry by offering unique benefits and capabilities. From reducing waste and increasing material efficiency to lowering maintenance costs and speeding up prototyping, AM is reshaping how companies approach reliability and maintenance. Furthermore, AM contributes to increased supply chain resilience by reducing production lead times and offering on-demand part production. As the industry continues to evolve, AM is expected to play a crucial role in driving innovation and efficiency across various sectors.


(1) “What is Additive Manufacturing?” by General Electric. GE Additive.  

(2) “Metal Additive Processes” by General Electric. GE Additive.  

(3) “What’s in Store for Industrial Additive Manufacturing in 2024” by ADDere Additive Manufacturing. Blog & News. 

(4) “Additive Manufacturing in Maintenance and Reliability” by Project Engineering Management. 5 September 2022.   

(5) “10 Advantages of Additive Manufacturing” by Advanced Technology Services (ATS). Blog Post.  

(6) “How Additive Manufacturing Can Reduce Production Lead Times” by ADDere Additive Manufacturing. Blog & News.

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