There are instances where we are asked to CNC machine parts, product or a prototype that are either hard to machine, too complicated geometrically, will not yield great accuracy or simply cannot be machined. What do we do? For these scenarios, 3D printing the parts can be a great solution. So why not substitute CNC machining with 3D printing every single time?
Well, there are advantages and disadvantages, pros and cons for each machine and process. So, which one is best for our needs? In which circumstances do we prefer one over the other? And is there another solution that might combine these two together to create a combo part?
The basic difference between the two processes is that with CNC machining we are reducing material as we start with a foam block for example, carving it away; while with 3D printing we are layering on and adding material until we receive the final product, therefore called additive manufacturing.
The 3D printer uses the same materials that make up the part it is creating, for instance ABS PLA and nylon, but it cannot switch between materials, whereas in CNC machining we can use several types of materials, often adding additional materials at the end.
However, machining can be messy – Sometimes we need to use a dust collector while operating a CNC router machine to catch all that excess made in the drilling, carving and milling process, while there is less waste material produces in printing and the whole process is less noisy.