3D Printing vs. CNC Technology

Posted on Jan 15 2015 - 10:59am by Editor

Along with virtual reality, 3D printing is perhaps the most talked about new technology. However, how does it compare with the CNC routing and milling systems that we’ve become accustomed to? Here’s an overview of how 3D printing compares with CNC technology.

3D Printing Limited Materials

Perhaps the biggest criticism of current 3D printers is that are limited to very few materials. Most printers, especially the lower cost models that are in enthusiasts’ homes, are only capable of working with ABS or PLA plastics. CNC routers, on the other hand, can comfortably handle materials like wood and plastic while heavy-duty milling systems can cut through various metals. Because of this, it’s unrealistic to suggest 3D printing will make CNC systems obsolete for a long time. 3D printing is excellent for creating a prototype of your product, but you’ll likely need a CNC system when it comes to the production of the final design.

Production Speed

Another hurdle this new technology has to handle is the speed it currently works at. How 3D printing works is by building objects up from scratch, one layer at a time. Individual machines vary in speed but even the most advanced systems lags behind a similarly specced CMC machines. This is because CMC works by removing material from the original source. Right now, it’s faster to start with a block of raw material and work down rather than trying to build something up from nothing.

The Benefits

However, that’s not to say that even current 3D printing systems don’t hold some advantages over CNC. Even now, 3D printers can create shapes that are almost impossible to produce with any other system. However, what has many individuals excited over the future of this technology is that, comparatively, it’s remarkably easy to use. It’s software driven and requires only a tutorial to operate, bringing it to a consumer level product. This means people who normally didn’t have access to this kind of technology can benefit from it which will only be positive for promoting new and creative ideas.

3D printing is not a finished article but it is, without question, a very exciting technology. If you can only invest in one system, though, you should be look at a CMC system. If you’re looking to work with softer materials like wood or plastic, Biesse are a leading provider of routing systems and also offer a comprehensive five-year warranty on their products. If your company plans to work with harder materials like metal, invest in a milling machine.