CNC Manufacturing Versus 3D Printers: What’s the Best Way?


3D printers, ever since they emerged on the scene, have caused quite a stir among the manufacturing community. Their ability to ‘self-replicate’ parts, and their low cost compared to CNC manufacturing has meant that a lot of people are seriously thinking about ditching the ‘cumbersome’ CNC technology in favor of 3D printers. However, is that the right way to go? Let’s take a look.

CNC Manufacturing Versus 3D Printers
CNC Manufacturing Versus 3D Printers

3D Printing is additive and cleaner

Most 3D printers use a plastic extruder to make a plastic model. This is unlike most manufacturing processes, including CNC manufacturing, which are subtractive processes. They start with a big block of material and chip away at it with cutters to give it the desired shape. Thus, there is wastage involved with CNC manufacturing, and it typically requires some measure of dust control.

In addition to that, a CNC milling and turning machine is a lot heavier compared to 3D printing. However, those disadvantages of CNC manufacturing over 3D printing are quickly negated by what this mature technology can offer.

3D Printing
3D Printing

Advantages of CNC outweigh its disadvantages

1. It is a mature technology- 3D printing technology is still in its infancy. These special ‘printers’ are still being refined, and while that is happening at a fast rate, they still have a long way to go before they can catch up with CNC machines.

2. It offers better precision and control- Compared to the relative new 3D printing technology, CNC manufacturing offers better control over the tool making process. Programming a CNC machine is a lot more complex than programming a 3D printer, which also means you have more control over the different parameters of the manufacturing process. Thus, you can always customize the tools down to the very last detail, something that is not entirely possible with 3D printers.

3. Finding skilled operators is a lot easier- Since CNC manufacturing has been around for quite some time, finding reliable machine operators isn’t too hard a task. This allows you to get the job done quickly. Finding skilled people who understand 3D printers can be tougher. The market is still full of DIY enthusiasts who are coming to terms with the new technology.

CNC Manufacturing
CNC Manufacturing

Which one should you use: CNC Manufacturing or 3D Printing?

While 3D printing can be a lot cheaper than CNC manufacturing, it is not always the best bet. If you are looking to manufacture prototypes or really small plastic parts, 3D printing will suit your needs. However, for more precise tools, CNC manufacturing is still your best bet. CNC manufacturing allows you to produce tools on an industrial scale, quickly, and reliably.

If you are looking for reliable CNC machining, here are a few tips to help you find the right service.

1. Check the reputation- Scourge for CNC machining centers in your area, and ask them for referrals. Check with the references and ask them the quality of products they got. If you get satisfactory responses, you are on the right track.

2. Scrutinize the facility- Before you order a job to a CNC machining facility, visit their center and check the work environment. A clean, organized work environment should instill confidence that the facility is capable of meeting your requirements.

3. Don’t settle for an offer that is too good to be true- Often, inexperienced CNC manufacturing centers will quote the lowest price just to get a job. The cheapest may not be the best bet, since you can never be assured of quality. In most cases, you will end up wasting money, and more importantly, time.

When you consult a CNC manufacturer, make it a point to look at his previous samples, which have been done according to industry standards. You might also ask about the clientele and the manufacturing specialty from the CNC manufacturing operators. Go through this link to get more details about the CNC manufacturing.