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CNC machining vs 3D printing

3D printing started as just another means for people and companies to print and get things done. Now, it’s the cornerstone of printing. Hardly anyone had access to 3D printers about a decade ago. Now, they’re as ubiquitous as you can imagine. 

CNC printing appears to be following the trend. However, while it is running a tad behind, it’s closing the popularity pretty well. 

In truth, CNC machines aren’t just so, they consist of several other subsections, including CNC mills, CNC routers, water jets, and laser cutters. In fact, 3D printers are also classed under CNC machines. 

When considering CNC machines, you’re talking about items that run by complete automation. The machines can drill or cut materials using a spindle or a router, thus making CNC machines generally subtractive. While 3D printing machines are more additive (they add to systems), CNC machines aren’t so. 

Despite their differences, however, one thing that everyone is coming to understand is that CNC printing and 3D printing are solid printing mechanisms that are here to stay. 

The Geometry Versatility Of 3D Printing And CNC Machining:Geometry versatility essentially concerns the shapes and parts that an item can make. Considering this, 3D printing has the upper hand. CNC machines get challenged when it comes to fabricating parts with overhangs, but 3D machines do this effortlessly. 

CNC machines will need various features to get a setup done, while 3D printers can get this done almost instantaneously. If the parts aren’t registered or clamped, CNC machines will struggle with them. So, when it comes to designing speed and convenience, 3D printing is better.

The Cycle Time Of CNC Machining And 3D Printing:

Usually, time cycle refers to the amount of time taken to create a part. Most 3D printing enthusiasts claim that the process is efficient and quick, as the printing technique provides different methods that will help you to finish parts — including FDM, FLP, and SLA.

However, 3D printing can also be slow at times. Keep in mind that CNC uses the subtraction method to optimize time. With both processes using cycle timing, CNC printing is markedly faster than 3D printing. 

Setup Duration For 3D Printing And Computer Numerical Control:

When you use 3D printing, you’ll find that you don’t need as much setup. CNC relies more on this, with 3D printing only requiring you to drop designs into more efficient slicers.

An experienced professional can get a 3D printer to work in a manner of seconds. Sadly, 3D routing and milling aren’t as easy. For instance, operators need to select optimal cutters for the design, which will most likely affect time and design depth too. 

CNC operators will also have to determine if the cutter will work and strike the clamps, or if there are some additional operational challenges that could occur.  

Generally, 3D printing has a much shorter setup time than CNC printing. 

Material Choices For CNC Machining And 3D Printing:

CNC printing gets the edge as far as this feature is concerned. Most 3D printers won’t be able to work with different materials. These include ABS, PLA, nylon, etc. So, they are significantly limited on that front. 

3D printers could also work with wood filaments, but they aren’t overly reliable when it comes to handling such a material. 

CNC printing, on the other hand, is more versatile as far as materials are concerned. Whether it’s wood, composites, metals, or much more, CNC printing it an effective and reliable printing method. They work with aluminium and other materials, as well as stainless steel and even titanium.

You will also be able to create practical parts and art with CNC printing processes. When you’re looking into the right material choices, CNC comes out on top easily. 




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