3D Printing VS Additive Manufacturing

Forge Labs SLS PA2200 03
3D Printing vs Additive Manufacturing. What's the difference?

3D Printing VS Additive Manufacturing

Are they the same thing?

The terms 'Additive Manufacturing' and '3D printing' are often used interchangeably, but actually they are not exactly the same thing. Put simply: Additive Manufacturing is a form of 3D printing, but not all 3D printing is Additive Manufacturing.

What is 3D printing?

3D printing  is a process of making three dimensional solid objects using a 3D printer and a CAD file and is generally used to describe processes that focus on the singular production of objects.

3D printing is the term used mostly by those not in the manufacturing industry or engineering who are doing single and smaller-runs, or who are using desktop printers.

3D printing mostly refers to technologies like Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF) 3D printers, as well some Stereolithography (SLA) and Digital Light Processing (DLP) machines.

What is Additive Manufacturing?

Additive Manufacturing (AM)  includes 3D printing and is a process of production using layers of materiel to create an object. This is different from subtractive manufacturing which involves cutting out or hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic (with a milling machine, for instance).

AM is often geared towards producing end-use production parts as an alternative to CNC or other traditional manufacturing processes.

Conversely, the term additive manufacturing is used to describe advanced, and scalable technologies such as Selective Laser Sintering, Multi-Jet Fusion, and Direct Metal Laser Sintering. These technologies are geared towards the manufacturing sector and offer a number of advantages over traditional manufacturing methods, such as:

  • Faster leader times,
  • More design freedom, and
  • Greater cost savings for complex assemblies.

3D Printing vs Additive Manufacturing

Two key differences that set Additive Manufacturing apart from 3D Printing are that AM is both functional and more scalable. This means end-use parts become more efficient and quicker to produce the more parts that are printed. This allows for greater cost savings on larger end-use production run making AM highly competitive and a suitable alternative to many traditional manufacturing methods.

In conclusion: while both 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing create objects by adding layers and using 3D printers, the term Additive Manufacturing is most commonly associated with industrial and commercial applications, whereas the term 3D printing is most commonly associated with consumer and recreational applications.

Examples Of 3D Printing vs Additive Manufacturing Technologies:

3D Printing

Additive Manufacturing

SLA, DLP, FFF, PolyJet



3D Printing

Additive Manufacturing

Prototypes, Master Patterns, Concept Models

End-Use Parts, Functional Parts, Volume Production