Logo Axis transparent

Additive Manufacturing

What is additive manufacturing?

additive manufacturing brings together a range of technologies that enable the production of a prototype, a part, or an assembly intended for launch on a larger scale. Thanks to new technologies such as CNC machining and 3D printing, additive manufacturing has become simpler, more efficient and less expensive than ever before.

CNC machining

CNC machining is a subtractive method. It is often used to manufacture objects with great precision. It is therefore highly recommended in the automotive, metal fabrication and aerospace industries.
However, CNC machining is more difficult to handle, and has its limits for certain geometries.

3D printing

3D printing is an additive method. By superimposing layers of material (plastic or metal) one on top of the other, it can be used to create any shape.

Combined with topological optimization (see below), 3D printing has many advantages over CNC machining.

In product design and manufacturing, finding and correcting design flaws quickly can help companies avoid costly overhauls and mid-course tooling changes.

Additive manufacturing enables engineers to thoroughly test prototypes whose appearance and performance are similar to those of final products, reducing the risk of user and manufacturing problems before moving on to production.

At Axis, we’ve been specializing in a number of 3D printing techniques since 1997. This enables us to offer rapid prototyping and even what we call mini or small production runs of up to 5,000 parts if required.

If you’d like to find out more about the different 3D printing technologies used at Axis, you’ll find a detailed explanation on each page, as well as an explanatory video.

The 2 main applications of additive manufacturing

Aesthetic prototypes

Startups and the design departments of major corporations know this. When it comes to convincing future investors or management teams, a prototype is part of an essential project phase. A drawing is worth a thousand words, but a prototype must be worth a thousand drawings! Being able to touch the object as if it were the final version, with the same mechanical and aesthetic properties, is essential for rapid progress. Technologies such as
make it possible to create parts of visually equivalent quality to plastic injection molding. A print can also be treated to look exactly like the product for an exhibition (sanding, painting, varnishing…). The automotive industry makes extensive use of this technology for the design of new headlamps, as it enables the rapid creation of an exact replica (transparency and color) of the part.

FMCG brands can also use them to test new packaging or product shapes. These prototypes are then presented to test consumers in focus groups to gauge the opinions of future customers. The closer the prototype is to the final result, the more relevant the feedback will be. A color, the feel of the material, the way users will handle it will be key information in modifying the final product.

le prototypage rapide Aspirateur en stéréolithographie réalisée par Axis

Functional and dimensional prototypes

Before launching the production of several thousand units, it’s important to know whether the designed part meets the technical specifications. Additive manufacturing becomes a key element in the industrialization phase. A prototype made from the same material as the final part can therefore help validate the key elements of the project. There are many sintering resins, filaments and powders to meet the needs of engineers. These range from simple ABS, polypropylene, PA6 and PA12 to titanium, various steels, copper and aluminum. Consult our material sheets to find the best option for your project. And if it’s not there, you can contact us to get it fixed.

Functional prototypes can then be inserted into assemblies to validate the material’s mechanical strength. Wear tests can be used to verify the engineers’ choices, or even to decide whether to change the material or modify the part.

The other advantage of developing a working prototype is that you can create several simultaneously. Where you would have to create a mold for each version using traditional manufacturing technology, you can simply modify your 3D file to obtain a variant of your prototype.

Piece FDM mini série avec Dépose de fil
This approach is ideal for designers, who can offer their customers a wide range of choices through slight modifications. And in terms of production speed, this will have no impact, since parts can be printed at the same time, rather than one after the other.

The 3 main advantages of rapid prototyping

Cost reduction

Additive manufacturing makes it possible to produce prototypes without the need for costly tooling, while guaranteeing the performance of the final product. We can therefore explore different variants of the product under development, and select the most appropriate solution. This is extremely important, as the purpose of the prototype is precisely to validate, or not, the concept developed, and the absence of a mold allows an infinite number of changes.

Time saving

With no molds to modify or reproduce, all you have to do is modify the 3D file to correct the problem identified on the previous version. Rapid communication is then established between the design office and the service provider producing the prototype.

As mentioned above, topological optimization, which involves modifying the part design to optimize mass, mechanical strength and/or cost, also speeds up the rapid prototyping process. The optimized part will generally be lighter while offering the same strength. Less material means faster and cheaper production, which is critical in certain industries such as aeronautics and automotive.

Improved communication

Whether it’s to facilitate communication between a company’s internal teams (technical/marketing/sales/management), with customers or investors, a prototype clearly facilitates communication. Additive manufacturing enables engineers to thoroughly test prototypes whose appearance and performance are similar to those of final products, reducing the risk of user and manufacturing problems before moving on to production.

The disadvantages of 3D printing for additive manufacturing

There aren’t really any drawbacks directly linked to 3D printing technologies for additive manufacturing. Each has its own advantages and problems, which limit them to certain applications. The disadvantage is that you need to own several of these technologies and master them perfectly to optimize their use. Many companies have their own machines, but we strongly recommend working with a professional who can advise you on the right technology and materials for your project. An additive manufacturing specialist will help you get straight to the point and avoid many setbacks as you learn to 3D print. Entry-level FDM machines can be found today at around €200, but can hardly compete with €300,000 machines. What’s more, finishes such as metallization and chrome plating are not easy to achieve if you’re not properly equipped.

3D printing technologies for additive manufacturing

There are many different additive manufacturing or 3D printing technologies. Although it has a modern image and recent technology, 3D printing has been around since the 1980s. Of course, over time, the original simple technology has been greatly developed, giving rise to different approaches and using more and more different materials.

At Axis, we use the main :

  • 3D printing using Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM), which uses a wide range of low-cost plastic materials. We work withe-motion Techa French company, but also with Stratasysone of the market leaders.
  • The stereolithography (SLA) enables us to create prototypes that are virtually identical to the final product, thanks to a printing quality equivalent to injection molding. It can also be used to produce translucent and transparent parts. We have recently invested in very large machines from the company
  • The
    Multi jet fusion
    (MJF) from
    brand, enables the production of functional and dimensional validation prototypes
  • The
    powder sintering
    (SLS), similar to MJF, offers great flexibility in terms of materials.
  • The
    vacuum casting
    ideal for rapid prototyping of small runs of up to 20 high-quality parts
  • Reaction injection molding RIMreaction injection molding, similar to vacuum casting, can be used to design a larger number of parts.
  • The metal sintering (DMLS/SLM) is used to create metal prototypes, either raw or machinable if maximum precision is required.

These technologies, some of them complementary, enable us to offer unprecedented responsiveness and quality. Numerous customers trust us with their projects (see the news feed), which is why we are constantly investing in the latest technologies available on the market.

If you want to learn more about additive manufacturing technologies, feel free to contact our experts to define the best approach for your project.