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Additive Manufacturing Process Selection

SAE International recently announced the release of its first suite of Aerospace Material Specifications (AMS) for additive manufacturing materials and process specifications. Aiming to support the certification of aircraft and spacecraft critical parts by providing a framework by guaranteeing the integrity of material property data for different additive manufacturing processes.

To celebrate this event, we would like to share a set of useful rules to help you decide the most suitable additive manufacturing process depending on your product requirements.


Additive Manufacturing is a great tool due to its flexibility and the capability of reducing time and costs during the design process.


Additive Manufacturing includes several different processes. The ISO/ASTM 52900 Standard was created in 2015 to standardize all terminology and classify each of the different methods of 3D printing. A total of seven process categories were established as shown in the following table.


Additive Manufacturing (AM) - FDM - Polymerization - Powder Bed Fusion - Material Jetting - Binder Jetting - Direct Energy Deposition - Sheet Lamination
Main classification of Additive Manufacturing Processes. Source: “The 3D Printing Handbook” by 3D Hubs


Now, knowing which options we have available, how can a designer decide which process is the best for an application?

In design, decision-making is mainly driven by the focus on either functional requirements or visual appearance.


To set a starting point for the decision-making process we are introducing some high- level simplifications depending on the main focus of your product and your budget:


  • Functional polymer parts: compare FDM vs. SLS (thermoplastics). SLS parts have superior physical properties, but FDM may be more cost-effective. For parts with highly complex geometry, SLS is generally the only option.


  • Visual polymer parts: For parts where aesthetics are important, let’s consider SLA vs. Material Jetting (thermoset). While both can produce parts with injection-mold like appearance, Material Jetting has the upper hand in terms of surface finish and dimensional accuracy, but at a significantly higher price point.


  • Metal parts: compare Binder Jetting vs. DMLS/SLM (metal powders). DMLS/SLM parts have excellent mechanical properties and dimensional accuracy, while Binder Jetting can be up to 10x cheaper and is usually the only option for producing large metal parts.


Having said that, the following charts will help you select the best process focused on more specific requirements.


Functional applications

If functionality is the main goal, the flowchart below can help you identify the most suitable 3D printing process based on your main requirement:


Visual appearance

When visual appearance is the main concern, then the 3D printing process selection can be simplified using the flowchart below:

While this information is very useful, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

To learn more about the best way of applying these fascinating processes give us a call. Also, open and download this useful table to compare the capabilities between different Additive Manufacturing Processes

Please call Daniel or I at Motovated for more about how to choose the best process and materials for you Additive Manufacturing!

Kind Regards,

Carlos Alonso
Product Design Engineer
Motovated Design & Analysis Ltd.