When talking about modern manufacturing technologies, we usually talk about CNC and 3D printing. 3D printing is a technology that is growing rapidly. It has several advantages over traditional methods. Therefore, it is no wonder that more and more people are turning to 3D printers.
However, 3D printing also has its disadvantages. For example, it is not (yet) suitable for mass production. One of the main reasons why many companies continue to do without a 3D printing service. There are also difficulties regarding speed.
For low-to-mid production, CNC machining is ahead anyway. But as I'm sure you can guess, CNC is not without its drawbacks. So the best thing to do is to look at the differences between the two manufacturing technologies. That way, you can get a better idea.
Manufacturing DifferencesThemost important difference in the two processes is the form of manufacturing.
3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing. This means that objects are assembled layer by layer. Said layers can consist of different materials. Among them are resins, plastic filaments, and plastic and metal powders.
CNC, on the other hand, is based on subtractive manufacturing. To achieve the desired result, material is cut from a blank. Spinning tools and milling cutters are used for this purpose. Manufacturing with CNC offers high dimensional accuracy.
In addition, there are many compatible materials. These include plastics, wood and metals.
Differences in materialsInprinciple, there is a wide range of compatible materials for both manufacturing technologies. However, in 3D printing, thermoplastics play the most important role (ABS, nylon, PLA, etc.). Other materials are used much less frequently.
With CNC, on the other hand, both plastics and metals are often used. One of the most common materials in CNC-based processes is aluminum. This is partly due to the fact that the material is recyclable and has excellent protective properties. This makes it a good choice when making prototypes.
Differences in ease of useThereis no denying that 3D printing is a lot easier to use than CNC is. The biggest work is creating the necessary file. Once that's done, all that's left to do is select the orientation, fill, and info about the part in question. Once the printing process begins, no supervision is required.
The 3D printer can be left alone until completion. Even post-processing is usually not too complicated. Whereby it depends here on the respective model. CNC on the other hand is a lot more labor intensive and less user friendly.
Different things have to be selected. These include quite complex things, such as the cutting path and the repositioning of the material. In addition, monitoring of the process is usually necessary.
Differences in costsInitself, 3D printing is cheaper than CNC.
However, only for small quantities. As soon as it comes to printing larger quantities, CNC is still the better choice. This is also, as mentioned, one of the main reasons why many companies avoid 3D printing. It's just not economical enough.
Private individuals, however, do not have to worry about this. For private individuals, therefore, a 3D printer usually makes more sense. On average, they get away with it significantly cheaper.