With advancements in manufacturing technology, businesses need to know which processes and equipment work best for them.
In today’s blog post, we will talk about subtractive and additive manufacturing processes and compare CNC machining with 3D printing.
Continue reading to learn more about CNC machining and 3D printing and determine which one is best for your manufacturing project.
CNC machining and 3D printing are both computer-controlled technologies that can be used for prototyping, parts production, custom punch processes, etc. Since the processes are programmed and automated, there’s less chance of error and greater consistency in parts produced.
The main difference between the two is that CNC machining is a form of subtractive manufacturing, while 3D printing is additive. Machining cuts away a workpiece to create a finished part. This is achieved through milling (rotating tools) or turning (rotating the workpiece against a tool). CNC machining offers great dimensional accuracy on various materials, including metals, wood, and plastics.
3D printing creates finished parts adding layer upon layer using a laser, heated extruder, or any other energy source. There are different 3D printing technologies, each using different materials to create parts:
- Plastic filaments (FDM)
- Resins (SLA, DLP)
- Plastic or metal powders (SLS, DMLS, SLM)
CNC machining is the older of the two technologies, so it still has a strong foothold in the manufacturing sector. 3D printing came to the fore in the 1980s, and modern 3D printers are significantly more accessible and versatile than their predecessors.
In the past, 3D printing was more focused on plastics, as metal processes were costly and time-consuming. However, manufacturers now have access to more efficient additive manufacturing technologies that offer accuracy, speed, and cost savings.
Let us now compare the benefits of machining with 3D printing.
Ease Of Use
3D printers are easier to use than CNC machines. Once you prepare a 3D printing file, you need to select the part orientation, fill, and supports. The printer can be left unsupervised until the process completes.
On the other hand, a CNC machine requires a skilled operator to select tools, rotation speeds, the cutting path, and positioning of the workpiece.
That said, in case a 3D printer malfunctions, someone has to troubleshoot it to avoid the production of faulty parts.
CNC machining creates wastage as it involves cutting material away from a workpiece. However, there is little or no mess with 3D printing, which makes it an environmentally-friendly option. 3D printing also reduces the ‘buy-to-fly’ ratio, which is the weight difference between the raw material and the finished product.
While 3D printing permeates the manufacturing sector, it still hasn’t been utilized successfully for mass production. For larger orders, CNC machining still proves more effective.
Accuracy And Size Of Parts
While 3D printing offers greater freedom of shape and high geometric complexity, CNC machining provides greater tolerance and build volumes.
Finally, comparing the costs of 3D printing and CNC machining involves several variables. Generally, 3D printing is cheaper for low-production volumes or when you need prototypes or parts quickly. For larger quantities, CNC machining may prove more cost-effective.
At Cav Tool Inc., we help businesses in Detroit with all their custom die, punch, and tooling needs. Click here to get a free custom quote.