An engineer clicks on an icon and the three-dimensional solid model on screen digitally transfers to a machine that hums to life half a world away. Metal powder melts under an incandescent beam of energy and a complex part takes shape, layer by layer. The component complete, the machine downloads another design file and begins building a different part. This is additive manufacturing, sometimes called 3D printing, a world away from the “subtractive” manufacturing used by aerospace, where ...

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