RE: [rp-ml] International Terminology Standards

From: SiderWhite <>
Date: Thu Jan 08 2009 - 03:57:50 EET

I think "3D Printing" (3DP) is the most descriptive yet general term and
will last the longest for widespread usage.


Best regards,

Glenn Whiteside



From: [] On Behalf
Of Terry Wohlers
Sent: Wednesday, January 07, 2009 9:16 AM
Subject: [rp-ml] International Terminology Standards




First, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and hope that it is filled
with peace and happiness.


Next week, ASTM is hosting an organizational meeting to discuss industry
standards and I hope you can attend. Details are at The use of terminology will be a
part of these discussions. Over the past several years, I've put a lot of
thought into the terms that we use in our industry and have come to the
conclusion that there's no right or wrong terms, although some are better
than others at communicating our thoughts. In preparation for next week's
meeting, I'd like to initiate some discussion on the subject. I will share
ideas, and hopefully some consensus, from the members of this list.


For many years, "rapid prototyping (RP)" has been a popular term, and
rightly so because prototyping has been the most popular application of
additive fabrication (AF) technology. However, it is one of many
applications as AF expands into new areas and industries. Consequently, a
growing number of people are using terms such as "additive fabrication" or
"additive manufacturing" when referring to the group of processes (e.g.,
fused deposition modeling, 3DP from Z Corp., laser sintering, etc.) that
build parts layer by layer. Stratasys and 3D Systems have adopted the term
"additive fabrication" as a catch-all term, although I cannot say whether it
has become an official corporate standard at either company. Maybe. The
mainstream press-when our industry is lucky enough to get included in
it-uses "3D printing" most frequently. Among industry insiders, 3D printing
refers to a group of AF processes that are relatively low cost, easy to use,
and office friendly. Some think of the process from Z Corp. when hearing
this term. Others may think of PolyJet from Objet Geometries.


AF processes are being used for a range of applications including concept
design and modeling, fit and function testing, patterns for castings, and
mold and die tooling. They are also used for fixture and assembly tools,
custom and replacement part manufacturing, special edition products,
short-run production, and series manufacturing. Prototyping is one of many
applications and that's why "RP" is no longer suitable in most instances as
a catch-all term. In fact, many companies resist the idea of using a
prototyping method for part manufacturing, so using this term could stifle
AF's transition to manufacturing applications.


The term "additive manufacturing" is fine, although because manufacturing is
an application and not a technology, I believe it is plagued with problems,
similar to "rapid prototyping." Consider, for example, this sentence: "My
company is using additive manufacturing for manufacturing." It's confusing.
Now, consider this: "My company is using solid freeform fabrication for
manufacturing." Much cleaner. I'm not suggesting that we use "solid freeform
fabrication;" I'm using it here to illustrate a point. I believe it works
much better when the catch-all term does not include the name of an
application. That way it can be used cleanly for all applications of the


Since 2005 I've used the catch-all term "additive fabrication" in our
company's publications, presentations, and communications. It's not perfect,
but it works. In the future, I truly believe that "3D printing" will become
the most popular term. When I'm describing AF technology to a relative or
someone I'm seated next to on an airplane, I use 3D printing because there's
a better chance that he/she will understand what I'm saying. It's simple and
easy to say. I prefer it over alternatives, but 3D printing currently means
something else to many people in our industry. This is likely to change. An
estimated 74% of all systems sold in 2007 were classified as a 3D printer
and each year this percentage increases.


If we were to let nature take its course, which term do you think would
become the most popular in 5-7 years? In other words, which catch-all term
do you feel has the greatest chance for success as AF works its way more
deeply into both technical and consumer markets. Answering this question
will help guide our thinking next week.



Terry Wohlers
Wohlers Associates, Inc.
OakRidge Business Park
1511 River Oak Drive
Fort Collins, Colorado 80525 USA
Fax 970-225-2027


Received on Thu Jan 08 04:02:17 2009

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