Hybrid manufacturing is a term that describes combining additive manufacturing and subtractive manufacturing in a single machine system. Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is used to build up a component, part or structure within another part; traditional subtractive manufacturing, or computer numerical control (CNC) milling, is used to fabricate, spot mill, polish and so on.
These can be in either order. For example, additive manufacturing in the form of laser cladding could be used to build up a metal form that, when cooled, is machined using traditional methods.
A reverse example would be subtractive machining used to create a base structure, with additive manufacturing used to create thin structures on top of the base. Subtractive manufacturing is used where traditional methods suffice and additive manufacturing is used where a high degree of delicacy is needed.
Since hybrid manufacturing incorporates both additive and subtractive technologies, fabrication and precision can be attained in a more efficient and unified environment. The combination is meant to enable greater design freedom, flexibility and intricacy in creating complicated parts or those with radical geometries that conventional manufacturing was not able to produce.
Hybrid manufacturing seeks to close the gap between the unlimited potential of CAD (computer-aided design) visualizations and the myriad constraints of what can be produced in real life. Other benefits include shorter processing times, the need for fewer machines and easier inspection.