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Differences between 3D printing and CNC machining

One of the conversations that people in the manufacturing industry cannot stop having is the different processes used. The two processes that get a lot of scrutiny are 3D printing and CNC machining. Some people tend to confuse the two, while others are more interested in knowing which one is superior. If you have been stuck in that loop, you are not alone. Here are some of the distinguishing features of the two processes.

Additive and subtractive

One of the main differences between these two is the processes that occur during manufacture. 3D printing is an additive procedure which means the printer adds ups pieces until the final piece is made. With CNC machining, the process starts with a block chipped at with the router until the final piece is made. With a CNC machine, you expect a lot of waste material that cannot be used.  3D printers, on the other hand, leave very little waste. It is the main reason why so many people love the process.

Prototyping vs. mass production

One of the things you will realize about CNC service is it is mostly used when one is mass-producing their products. The reason behind this is, the process is fast, and the products all come out looking uniform. Most of the products you see were made using this process. It is also cheap to run, making it a favorite for many. On the other hand, 3D printing is mostly used for prototypes. Since it can make low-cost pieces, most people prefer to use it when they are coming up with a design that might need a lot of changes. Once the prototype is approved, many people will move to CNC machining to create the final product.

Product being made

One of the things you realize about a 3D printer is that it can only handle lighter materials and smaller projects. Since the procedure is still under the development stage, many things still need to be streamlined. Top of the list is the amount of weight the printer can handle. As such, bigger projects might not work well with this procedure because there is a risk that things will not get together properly. On the other hand, CNC is used with bigger materials. The machines are also known to handle heavier materials. It makes the entire procedure the best option for factories that handle heavier pieces.


The other thing you need to look at when dealing with these two processes is the materials used when making the products. While all of them use more or less the same materials, 3D mostly uses plastic. CNC, on the other hand, uses metals in its processes.  Based on that, you can choose a process that will work for you.

If you are looking for a procedure that will work for you, it makes sense to do your research. The comparison above gives you a rough idea of what to expect with the two procedures. Look into the processes and figure out which one will work for you.

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Senior writer & Rumors Analyst, James is a postgraduate in biotechnology and has an immense interest in following technology developments. Quiet by nature, he is an avid Lacrosse player. He is responsible for handling the office staff writers and providing them with the latest updates happenings in the world of technology. You can contact him at james@pc-tablet.com.