Eric Weinhoffer writes for Plethora,
There are many different manufacturing processes and tools available, but when it comes to analyzing the categories, Additive versus Subtractive Manufacturing is a great place to start. Additive Manufacturing (also known as 3D Printing) has become hugely popular and prevalent in hardware businesses in recent years. With an influx of new tools to use, it’s now worth considering which is best for your scenario; the tried-and-true subtractive techniques such as milling or turning, or a type of the newer additive technology?
Let’s compare them and find out how best to proceed when it comes time to select a manufacturing method. Finding the ideal process will depend a lot on what you’re doing, what your capabilities are and if it makes sense to work with outside fabrication sources (like Plethora).
Additive Manufacturing Background
3D Printing has been around for a lot longer than most people think, with initial experiments starting in the 1980s. Initially, a lot of printing was done by curing thermoset polymers, and in 1984, Chuck Hall of 3D Systems filed for a patent that described a stereolithography process for curing layers of photopolymer with lasers. This was also the origin of the STL (Stereolithography) file type that still acts as a standard for 3D Printing today.