CNC vs 3D printing

A rapidly developing technology, 3D printing has several benefits over conventional manufacturing processes. However, it has drawbacks, such as the fact that 3D printing cannot be utilised for large production and has speed and accessibility restrictions. Let’s discuss various aspects of CNC vs 3D Printing

CNC (computer numerical control), a reasonably popular subtractive method for part manufacture, is another manufacturing technique for low-to-mid volume. To determine where these technologies are most appropriate, we choose to examine the benefits and drawbacks of each approach.

Manufacturing Methods: Subtractive - CNC vs. 3D printing - Additive

The primary distinction between 3D printing and CNC machining is that the former is a type of additive manufacturing, whilst the latter is a subtractive process. This means that the finished product is produced using CNC machining, which begins with a block of material (referred to as a blank).

In order to accomplish this, the object is shaped using cutters and spinning tools. Excellent dimensional precision and a wide range of materials compatible with CNC machining, such as plastic, metal, and wood, are some of its benefits.


By building up things layer by layer, 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, uses materials like plastic filaments (FDM), resins (SLA/DLP), and plastic or metal powders (SLS/DMLS/SLM).


Layers of these materials are cemented using an energy source, such as a laser or hot extruder, to create the finished item. The versatility of 3D printing, its use in a wide range of industries, accuracy, speed, and capacity to reduce prices and part weight are only a few of its benefits.


 However, a number of machines have attempted to integrate these two types of manufacturing into one. The ZMorph 2.0 SX, which is advertised as a CNC mill and 3D printer, stands out among others. Due to its interchangeable heads, this includes a print head and a CNC mill with three axes.



USABILITY : CNC vs 3D Printing

However, CNC machining requires a lot more labour than traditional milling. It takes a professional operator to decide which tools to use, how fast to rotate them, where to cut, and whether to move the material being used to make the part. Additionally, there are post-processing methods that can take extra time.

It is well known that 3D printing is easier to operate than CNC machining. This is due to the fact that, after the file is ready, all that is left to do is select the part’s orientation, fill, and supports, if necessary. The printer can then be left running until the part is done without the need for a supervisor after printing has started. The amount of post-processing needed depends on the technology.

Precision, Size Restrictions, and Geometric Complexity

We have chosen to contrast CNC machining with SLS, industrial (as opposed to desktop) FDM, and DMLS metal 3D printing despite the fact that there are many other 3D printing technologies. All 3D printing techniques, including DMLS, cannot compare to CNC machining in terms of tolerance. The superiority is less pronounced and less exact with thin layer thicknesses than DMLS.


Powder bed fusion 3D printing technologies, like SLS and DMLS have a finite build volume. In terms of the largest possible part size, even methods with higher build volumes, like FDM, fall short of CNC.

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