Should You Use 3D Printing or CNC Machining?

3d printing vs. precision machining blog post

Should You Use 3D Printing or CNC Machining?

The big question is Should You Use 3D Printing or CNC Machining? When you finally decide it time to create a new part, you have two manufacturing methods to choose from: 3D printing and CNC machining. Notwithstanding, both processes have advanced to become what we know them today by meeting different demands. Therefore, it is essential before going for one over the other to know which one best suits your needs.

3D printing is rapidly growing, offering a couple of advantages over traditional methods though it becomes limited somewhat due to speed. On the other hand, CNC machining is suitable for low-to-mid subtractive production, its significant shortfall being a lot of waste.

So, do you go 3D or CNC (Computer Numerical Control)? Here are some reflections to help you decide.

1. Is 3D Printing or CNC Machining Best for Your Current Budget?

The cost of 3D printing vs. CNC depends on the production quantity. If you’re making a large quantity of something, CNC is the better selection since the per-unit cost decreases. It is proven to be more economical to choose 3D printing if only small quantities are involved. It is also more flexible switching between jobs with 3D printers.

2. Consider the Size, Finish, and Materials of Your Project when Choosing Between 3D Printing and CNC Machining

Tool size is a constraint in both 3DP and CNC processes. With 3D printing, the nozzle diameter determines the smallest positive feature produced while in CNC machining, the tool diameter dictates the smallest negative element that can be created. For instance, the nozzle diameters of a typical 3D printer are around 0.25mm to 0.8mm capable of producing minimum features four times between 1.0mm to 3.2mm.

The finish of the final product also matters. CNC machines are capable of producing pinpoint precision and much smoother surfaces than 3DP.

Both methods can deal with a wide range of materials, including metals and plastics. Previously 3D printing focused majorly on plastics, but we have seen changes from companies such as 3D Systems, Desktop Metal, and Arcam coming up with efficient metal 3D printers. Nevertheless, CNC machining is incomparable with high-density metals or wood. Because of low heat tolerance and efficiency with heavy metals, CNC suitable for creating components for airplanes, engines, or parts required to be strong and heat-resistant.

3. Which Stage is Your Project?

If you’re still prototyping, 3D printing could make more sense vs. CNC machining. This is because customizations using 3D printers is more straightforward and quick. For example, you can create unique products; a dentist can use 3D printing to make unique products to a specific patient.

The turnaround time is also an important factor. If your projects require quick deliveries, CNC is much faster than 3D printing, especially mass production. Besides, in additive manufacturing, you create something from nothing while in subtractive manufacturing, parts are curved from an extensive material; hence the Computer Control Numerical machining is faster.

Which do I Choose? Ricaurte Precision is Here to Help

Ricaurte Precision is an approved supplier of leading medical devices, aerospace, and technology manufacturers. We are committed to continuous improvement through investments in the latest technologies and processes.

With over thirty years of industrial experience, our customers value our consistency in quality,, efficiently fabricated parts, and timely deliveries. Contact us today to book a free consultation and get expert advice.