by Alex Alvarez, April 19, 2019

Creating Fully Functional Products with Additive and Subtractive Manufacturing

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The making of articles, components or finished goods, also known as manufacturing has been a skill that can date back to the Stone Age. Although a slightly different form of manufacturing we still take those same concepts and apply them to our every day products.

Subtractive Manufacturing

One of the most common and traditional forms of making a product is by means of using subtractive manufacturing. The concept is simple, you start with a raw block of material and start chipping away at it until you’re left with your final product. I like to use the analogy of a wood carver who starts with a piece of wood and then starts slowly chipping at it until they get the shape or form they’re looking for.

In today’s world however, things are a bit more complex, when referring to subtractive manufacturing, the term often refers to a process which involves a computer and some level of automation. CNC machines are one of the primary tools involved when using the subtractive manufacturing method. The process usually involves a programmer giving the machine X,Y and Z coordinates and then having the machine cut or “chip” away at the stock until the final part is completed.

Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing, which is a fairly new concept compared to its counterpart – subtractive manufacturing, but nonetheless it is rapidly growing traction. Subtractive manufacturing has a few limitations when it comes to what you can build and where you can build it. Similar to subtractive manufacturing, additive manufacturing machines are also typically driven by X, Y and Z coordinates, however, instead of having the machine remove material, it builds the part up layer by layer often as thin as 20 microns for higher end machines.

The benefit of building up? There is no longer that uncertainty of crashing your $500,000 CNC machine while making intricate moves while trying to squeeze into every nook and cranny. Technology is advancing at a record pace and with designs, like the one pictured below, being the norm for design concepts, manufacturing must be able to keep up and produce these unique parts one way or another.

In addition, additive manufacturing machines are much smaller in size compared to CNC machines. This means they can virtually be taken anywhere and quickly have the ability to create prototypes anywhere in the world. One downfall however is build space, with smaller machines, the space allotted to build a part is limited, meaning parts must only be a few inches in order for them to be created.

Combining Additive and Subtractive Manufacturing

Overall, these two methods can be combined in order to create high end functional components. While additive manufacturing machines can build intricate shapes, surface finish tends to be on the rougher side, depending on the machine. A common workflow is combining both of these methods using Autodesk’s Advanced Manufacturing Toolsets such as Powermill. The software can program additive manufacturing machines building the component from the ground up and then program CNC machines to machine away any tight tolerance features. If you would like to learn more about Autodesk’s manufacturing toolsets and how they fit into your business, don’t hesitate to reach out. 

If you would like to learn more about how Autodesk’s manufacturing toolsets can fit into your business, be sure to attend our upcoming webinar, in partnership with DLT and Autodesk: Additive and Subtractive Manufacturing with Autodesk Advanced Solutions

 

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