Bloodhound SSC / Dan Johns @DanJohns_SSC
AM Vs 3DP — Bloodhound Image
This image was tweeted by Dan Johns from the Bloodhound SSC project in the UK. It illustrates a '3D printed' part on the left, and a 'additively manufactured' part in the right. Can you spot the difference? @DanJohns_SSC can!
I got involved in a late night debate recently on Twitter that revolved around whether we can call everything in this arena 3D printing. The premise for doing this is that it makes it easier to explain to the novice. It's damn hard to argue this subject in 140 characters as it isn't a simple argument so I'll attempt to outline my thoughts here instead.
There is a suggestion that we should categorize everything in this arena, from Makerbot to Solidoodle and from Sintering to EBM as 3D printing and do away with the term additive manufacturing based on the idea that 3D Printing is the simplest explanation for the novice or newbie to understand.
On the surface it seems makes sense, simplicity is absolutely the right thing when trying to get new concepts across — I am a happy advocate of the "3D Printing" message in some arenas or situations, the markets catered for by our new website that you are reading this on are perfect examples of this and precisely why we created this community.
However calling everything 3D printing makes no provision for the different technologies involved, the different markets and audiences and the different aims of the companies manufacturing the machines not to mention that fact that some of the technologies simply aren't printing...so the argument is factually inaccurate aswell.
The difficulty in finding an umbrella term is perhaps best evidenced by the ill-fated Additive Manufacturing Branding Initiative (AMBI) which set out to bring all the machines manufacturers under one group to market the industry, a little bit like wine growers from the same region.
What happened? None of the companies could agree on the terms to use, the target market to shoot for or the message that they could all get behind. The reason is simple, what 3D Systems are trying to do is very different to Arcam, Mcor are poles apart from Renishaw — their products are different, their prices are very different, their target audience is different and accordingly the terminology they use and their messages have to be different.
So, I get it, 3D Printing is a good, simple cover all term for newbies, it is accessible to the non-engineer, the consumer and maker, it is perfect for that audience, the prsnlz.me audience and so you will see plenty of 3D printing references all over this site.
However if you are selling a £500k machine that produces metal parts for industrial applications then you need to be talking manufacturing. In some instances to ensure you aren't dismissed as a fad by the old school cynics, but more importantly because you are targeting the manufacturing industry, and its the right language to be using.
3D printing has its place and as a term it is vital, I've argued for years that it is the easiest thing to understand for someone who hasn't clapped eyes on this before.
But lets not dumb down the technology when we dont need to. There are plenty of engineers and manufacturers are looking at adopting this technology to manufacture in the industrial space - and the term additive manufacturing is the perfect message to talk to them with.
So... the answer to the question is that there is room for both, dependent on your audience and motives, and that is why we now have prsnlz.me to go alongside TCT Magazine so the product, message and terminologies can be deployed to the right audience...in most instances they'll make their own minds up anyway ;-)