The Ultimate Guide to Additive Manufacturing

Manufacturing is changing all the time, creating and responding to challenges that change week to week. Suppliers face material shortages, geopolitical turmoil affects trade and the movement of resources, prices fluctuate and parts of the supply chain can break without warning. 



Designers and design engineers need to create workable prototypes quickly and effectively, and personnel involved in fields such as aerospace, medical and dental require a seamless process. 



Skilled UK manufacturing and engineering needs to be on the cutting edge of innovation to meet these challenges without breaking pace.


Additive manufacturing is the answer.

It can be tricky to navigate when you are new to additive manufacturing (commercial 3D printing). We aim to offer you an in-depth overview of everything additive manufacturing. You can look into our applications, industries, 3D printing technologies, case studies and more in the sections below or read on as we take a deep dive into the role additive manufacturing is playing in transforming manufacturing, design and consumerism. In the Ultimate Guide to additive manufacturing, we will discuss:


Find what you need from additive manufacturing

How is additive manufacturing used?

Additive manufacturing has a wide range of applications – from prototyping to full-scale production. It is highly valuable to industries that depend on quick and efficient manufacturing.


Using additive manufacturing holds many advantages over traditional manufacturing methods including reduced costs, increased flexibility, and improved efficiency. 


The versatility and flexibility of the technology makes it an ideal solution for a wide variety of applications in a number of different sectors including defence, automotive, healthcare, consumer electronics and consumer goods. 


The ability to manufacture complex parts using relatively small machines makes it particularly well suited to low volume production requirements.

Transforming the manufacturing landscape in the UK & globally

In its infancy when compared to traditional manufacturing techniques including lathe machining, injection moulding and other processes – the technology has reached an exciting stage in its development. As well as being a vehicle for the production of high-quality prototypes that can be designed, tested, redesigned and repeated easier than any other manufacturing process, 3D printing has evolved to be used in part production, as well as in the development of consumer products.

When combined with other technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing has the potential to transform the manufacturing industry and boost productivity in the coming years. When applied to mass production, the technology can produce parts for as little as £0.50 per piece.

stratasys neo450s build chamber

How AM shapes up next to other manufacturing processes

For low-volume production, 3D printing is significantly lower than the cost of traditional methods such as CNC machining or injection moulding. Moreover, the use of 3D printing means that parts can be made very quickly – the process typically takes just hours instead of days or even weeks. The parts produced can also be customised to fit a specific need – perfect for the production of one-off prototypes or the manufacture of parts where size and complexity make the normal production process impractical.

Solving supply chain constraints

The end-to-end 3D printing process is more efficient and quicker for low and medium volume production, than other manufacturing methods. You can see the impact of 3D printing on the supply chain below or read more on how 3D printing is transforming the supply chain.

Industries using additive manufacturing

We want to make it easy to see how you can apply 3D printing to your industry and have created bespoke guides to 3D printing in an array of applicable industries. For more information on these, click below where you can discover the full benefits of additive manufacturing in your field, and download our latest brochures.

Offering ample benefits in the world of design, 3D printing allows teams to design and refine products quicker than ever before. Ideal for prototyping with full pantone colour possibilities, and a huge range of materials available, the era of rapid prototyping is here – allowing designers, engineers and industry-specific personnel to collaborate effectively. 

3D printing in engineering


A common use of 3D printing in engineering is in the creation of custom jigs, fixtures and workholdings to hold in place tools and parts when engineering using traditional manufacturing processes. Relying on a CAD file that can be used and tweaked again and again, 3D printing jigs and fixtures is more cost effective and faster than any other process. 

There are multiple uses of 3D printing in the aerospace industry, including for prototyping and end-use parts. For example, NASA used 200 Stratasys 3D printed parts onboard their Orion spacecraft for their latest Artemis mission to the moon. The possibilities in aerospace are exciting and with Stratasys – subcontractors get peace of mind they are delivering the best. 



3D printing is used within the medical industry to create custom prosthetics and implants, as well as organs used to practise and plan surgery effectively. With many advantages, both in terms of training purposes and for applications in symbiosis with the human body, the options are truly exciting. From Cancer Research to 3D printed hearts mimicking the look and feel of the human heart, you can see how 3D printing is revolutionising the medical field today. 


Unbelievable moves have been made in the dental industry in recent years, as 3D printing takes the reins as the fastest, most cost-effective and bespoke solution for printing dental implants, crowns and much more. Ideal for the dental laboratory and for fast part translation in dental surgeries, there is a reason why professionals in the industry are turning to additive solutions.

Consumer products are changing as a result of the capabilities brought to the fold by 3D printing. Not only is the technology perfect for prototyping and used in the design phase for technologies including electronics (including headphones, wearables and smartphones) but also for final production, particularly for creating customised products, like special edition footwear or fashion accessories where the production volume is low.

  • 3D printing in education


    Education must keep up with the latest technology in manufacturing, and with 3D printing primed to be a huge player in the future of industry, it is no wonder that educators are bringing 3D printers in house – and as Stratasys is the leading industrial 3D printing brand, they take pride of place in educational institutions across the UK and Ireland.


Industrial 3D printers have revolutionised the way parts are prototyped and created – car-ready. Offering designers and engineers greater creativity, flexibility, scalability and speed in the process from design to product, additive manufacturing is serving the top automotive companies worldwide, including McLaren Racing in Formula One who print 9000 parts a year using their Stratasys 3D printer. 

3D Printing in Aerospace with engine on

More 3D printing applications than you might think

3D printing now offers end-to-end application from design to production and everything in between. You can discover more about the applications below to ensure you get the information you need. From aircraft interior components to structural components for defence systems, to medical and dental devices, additive manufacturing can be used to manufacture a wide range of products for a wide range of applications. Companies are making spare parts for maintenance operations, creating custom tools on demand, and even producing replacement parts for household equipment like vacuum cleaners. The applications are endless, but the applications in engineering and manufacturing make an industrial 3D printer a vital facet of the factory floor.

Rapid prototyping

Rapid prototyping is a process of creating a physical model or prototype from computer-aided design (CAD) or 3D printing data. With rapid prototyping, designers and engineers can create a preliminary model or design in less time and with fewer resources than traditional methods. By using a 3D printer, engineers and designers can quickly create a physical representation of the CAD file without the need for expensive tools or equipment. This process also eliminates the need for creating moulds, which can reduce costs significantly.

Production parts

The application for part production is particularly prevalent in cases when the requirements are bespoke, such as in the dental industry and medical industry where implants, prosthetics and more can be 3D printed using bio-compatible materials for symbiosis with human tissue. In addition to this usage, the application for customisable parts is growing fast reaching industries such as fashion and consumables, where the technology is often used to create limited edition products. In the automotive industry, 3D printing is helping brands to perform better against the competition with lightweight, durable parts printed in materials such as Ulten 1010 and carbon fibre.

3D printing in Aerosapce stand alone engine

Composite tooling

One of the most recent advances in additive manufacturing technology is the use of 3D printing for composite tooling. This technology can create complex parts using a variety of materials, which can improve the efficiency and accuracy of manufacturing processes.


Composite tooling makes use of different materials to create a final product. These materials can include metal, plastic and rubber, among others. In manufacturing applications, composite tooling can be used to create components that are more durable and less expensive than those made from a single material.

ABS M30i


Speed up R&D by developing prototypes in house, upgrade your production line, save money by reducing wastage in traditional manufacturing, and perfect your products before they are manufactured at scale with 3D printing.  The options and use-cases for 3D printing in manufacturing can help businesses amplify their innovations and develop new products in record time.

Additive Manufacturing

Complementing other manufacturing processes with jigs, fixtures and workholdings

Additive manufacturing, while not a sole replacement for some traditional machining processes, is the ideal solution for low-volume production, prototyping and supporting the manufacturing of parts by creating bespoke jigs, fixtures and workholdings. As manufacturing becomes more and more automated, the need for precision tools and fixtures increases. With 3D printing, manufacturers can create customised workholdings, jigs and fixtures for their processes without having to buy expensive tooling that may only be used once.

Who is using 3D printing technology from Stratasys?

Mclaren Racing
David and Goliath statue 3D printed by Fluxaxis using Stratasys Objet 300
200 3D printed parts in NASA's Orion spacecraft were 3D printed using Stratasys technology
  • Mclaren racing team print 9000 parts with Stratasys 3D printers – read more 
  • Fluxaxis print giant pink “David and Goliath” sculpture for display at Dublin Castle using Objet 300 – read more
  • 200 3D printed parts by Stratasys are used in the Orion spacecraft primed for the moon as part of Artemis mission- read more
  • Ganit Goldstein puts Stratasys on the catwalk at Milan Fashion Week with Gnomon fashion collection – read more
  • Adidas use Objet Connex 500 to print prototypes in 16-micron layers – read more
  • Oxford University use Stratasys technology for vital neural research – read more
  • Volvo used Stratasys Polyjet 3D printing to create and test internal flow passages using heat and high pressure to validate new design – read more

You can read more case studies or discover 11 things you might have missed in 3D printing.

Below is a brief overview of the technologies available in 3D printing and spearheaded by Stratasys. You can click each title for more information on the technology.

FDM or Fused Deposition Modelling is the process whereby thermoplastic filament is heated and built layer by layer on a stage. The technology was invented by Stratasys themselves 30 years’ ago making them the biggest proponents of the technology.

FDM TPU 92A Hose 2

Polyjet 3D printing is the closest thing to inkjet printing. One of the simplest techniques in 3D printing, Polyjet extrudes layers of liquid photopolymers onto a stage where it will create fine layers to micron-level to build parts of outstanding quality.

Known for performing in high-pressure environments, stereolithography or SLA creates highly accurate and high-quality parts. Neo stereolithography from Stratasys offers these benefits while cutting finishing time in half as a beam delivery system produces layer to layer alignment for best-in-class build quality.

Difference in intricacies from legacy 3D printer (left) and SLA 3D printed part (right)
stratasys neo450s with user and build chamber open

SAF or Selective Absorption Fusion is a powder-based process whereby an infrared-absorbing fluid is used to fuse polymer powder. The fluid, sensitive to infrared, heats up to a higher temperature than the surrounding material producing medium volume parts. The technology is known for low-part cost and high part strength.

Similar to SLA technology, Digital Light Processing (DLP) is the process whereby photopolymer parts are formed and cured layer by layer ensuring quick and quality production. The limitations are in the materials, where it is limited to odor-emitting photopolymers.

Get expert advice & support today

For more information on how you can use additive manufacturing to design, create and refine world-class components and products you can see Stratasys 3D printers and parts on show at SYS Systems HQ.


You can get expert advice, information, ideas and application support to develop your idea and bring it to life using 3D printed technology today. Why not book a FREE demonstration at our bespoke innovation centre in Foston, Derbyshire to see what the technologies can do for your business?

Upcoming Events - Register Your FREE place

Four keynote speakers direct from Stratasys, including President of Stratasys EMEA, Andy Langfeld will be speaking on the applications, industries and benefits of additive manufacturing. You will also get a chance to see live machine demonstrations and a range of high quality parts and materials on 1st December at our Additive Manufacturing Hub in Foston, Derby. 

Stratasys 3D printing technologies go on-tour in Ireland, taking in Dublin on 1st November, Cork on 2nd November and Galway on 3rd November. The hotly-anticipated F370CR from Stratasys will be on the road, alongside the Stratasys J35 for live demonstrations from the award-winning duo, Rob Thompson and Chris Andrews. Join us to see machine demos, incredible parts and much more. 

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