The design freedoms allowed by additive manufacturing methods such as 3D printing provide designers with immense opportunities to optimise parts for performance by removing the limitations imposed by traditional manufacturing methods.
Designers no longer have to worry about draft angles (e.g., for drawing products out of moulds), undercuts, machining capability, etc., that are associated with conventional manufacture. Part geometries can now be optimised for performance in service rather than be limited by the method of manufacture. 3D printing also provides opportunities for unitisation, where previously joined parts are made as a single unit resulting in savings in production costs.
Complex geometries (e.g., mesh structure) made possible by additive manufacturing offer engineers several distinct advantages, including high surface area to volume ratio. This can be harnessed to achieve greater efficiencies for a given volume in heat transfer (e.g. heat exchangers), chemical reactions (e.g. catalysis) and electrochemical reactions (e.g. waste water treatment) to name just a few. Also, additive manufacturing of metals such as Titanium alloy Ti6Al4V provides new opportunities for biomedical (biocompatibility) and aerospace (high strength to weight ratio) applications.