The Benefits of CNC Machining Over 3D Printing

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) Machining and 3D printing are two different ways of transforming or altering a material to obtain a desired shape. However, there are practical differences between these two methods and it’s important to understand the differences in materials, techniques and finished products in order to choose the right method for your manufacturing. So how do you choose the best technique to advance your business? Here we look at some of the benefits of CNC Machining over 3D printing.

What CNC Machining and 3D Printing Have In Common

Both CNC Machining and 3D printing use computer inputs to transform a starting material into the desired shape of the final product. CNC Machining has a longer history and stronger foothold in manufacturing, while 3D printing is newer and still being developed to become productive and easy to use. However, when developing prototypes, machinists and engineers may use either CNC Machining or 3D printing. Because they both use computer design input, production is efficient and consistent.

Benefits of CNC Machining Over 3D Printing

  • 3d printer working and printing red plastic componentSpeed of Production – 3D printing is a lot slower than CNC Machining, particularly when it comes to large scale production. 3D printers build layer by layer, whereas CNC Machining can happen very quickly on an assembly line. If you need to produce a larger volume of items, and time is money, CNC Machining produces a much better result, potentially creating hundreds of pieces in the same time it takes a 3D printer to create one.
  • Greater Diversity in Size and Shape of Parts – 3D printers can only use the area of the printing bed to create parts, whereas CNC Machining can work with much larger parts. CNC Machining can use the assembly line to create a large number of larger and different shapes parts quickly. 3D printing can create larger parts, but these need to be broken down into smaller components that are printed and later assembled. This can add an inordinate amount of time to your production process.
  • Materials – 3D printers can work with plastics, metals and polymers; however, CNC Machining works with a much greater range of materials including metals, metal alloys, wood, acrylic, modeling foam, thermoplastics and machining wax. Different 3D printing machines are usually required for each different material, making 3D printing cumbersome and much more limited when it comes to material types. CNC Machining can be quickly and easily adapted to different materials, even using the same machines. Parts created with CNC Machining are precise, reliable and durable, used for important applications such as machinery, aerospace applications and medical.

The Strength of 3D Printing

One of the beneficial differences of 3D printing is that it produces less waste than CNC Machining. Because CNC machining works by removing material from the workpiece to create the desired result, there is some excess and wastage. 3D printing only uses the material needed. However, this is usually only beneficial in the production of a prototype as 3D printing is not yet suitable for larger scale production.

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Because of the continuing benefits of efficiency, productivity and precision that CNC Machining provides, 3D printing won’t be replacing CNC Machining any time soon. To find out how using CNC Machining can make your product more efficient and successful, talk to the expert precision engineers at Inverse Solutions today.