Additive manufacturing has, in many studies, been compared with traditional manufacturing techniques like, for example, injection molding. In a study entitled "The Use of Selective Laser Melting to Increase the Performance of AlSi9Cu3Fe Alloy," a group of researchers compared parts made with 3D printing to parts made with die casting, using the same material.
Aluminum and its alloys have an excellent strength to weight ratio, and AlSi9CuFe is frequently used in the automotive industry because of its mechanical strength. It is easy to machine and is usually processed by high pressure die casting, but the method has its imperfections.
The 3D printed parts showed a very fine microstructure, and overall, the parts produced by additive manufacturing exhibited greater strength than those produced by die casting, as well as greater plasticity. This is notable because it shows that 3D printing can overcome the strength-ductility tradeoff that is present in so many metals and alloys. The researchers conclude that 3D printing can improve the performance of the alloy compared to high pressure die casting, as well as produce more complex and lightweight structures, opening up new applications.