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Additive manufacturing
Additive manufacturing

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2.3 Application of additive manufacturing

AM has a prototyping heritage, and with the advent of techniques that enable functional parts to be made, prototypes are becoming ever more functional.

Some of the most exciting applications are those for bespoke medical devices. For instance, facial and dental reconstructions created directly from 3D body scans (Figure 4).

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Figure 4 Medical scans make the reconstruction of artificial bones possible, such as this jawbone

There are also applications in the area of repair. Jet and gas turbine blades are routinely damaged but are expensive to replace. AM has been used to repair just the tip of these blades, saving a considerable amount of money (Figure 5).

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Figure 5 Gas turbine blades with tip repairs

These kinds of specialist repairs are where the initial interest in AM was established. As the techniques become better understood and cheaper to implement, they will be used for increasingly routine applications.