When a company is looking for rapid prototyping, the most popular method during the last 50 years has been CNC machining. This prototyping tool has allowed prototypes to get made and remade until it works perfectly and can be duplicated as the actual part.
But there’s a new type of rapid prototyping in town, and that’s 3D printing. While we won’t deny that 3D printing is a) getting better all the time, and b) pretty cool, there are huge differences between the two types of prototyping. Let’s take a look at them and what you might expect when working with them.
The Big Differences
In many ways, the way a CNC mill or a 3D printer creates items are complete opposites. Here are the primary differences between them.
- Additive vs. Subtractive – The primary difference between 3D printing and using CNC machining is that one is additive and one is subtractive. 3D printing takes a malleable material and keeps adding to it a little at a time. Subtractive machining takes a larger piece and takes bits away from it.
- Waste – Because the 3D printer lays down what it needs to create the object, there is no waste associated with 3D printing (unless some sort of material needed to keep everything in place during the printing, which is often snapped off at the end.) Since CNC manufacturing takes a larger piece and takes away from it, there is waste involved (though that waste can often be recycled).
- Materials – 3D printing is much more limited in the kind of materials that can be used. Nearly all 3D printers print with some sort of plastic, which can be all some industries need when it comes to rapid prototyping. CNC machining can work with dozens of metals, but it can also create prototypes from other materials.
- Tolerance – You can almost always tell a 3D printed piece because you can see the layers that were put down, and the edges often aren’t smooth. CNC machines can create rapid prototypes that can stand up to much more precise tolerances (EDM wiring even more so).
While there are huge differences between 3D printing and CNC machining, there are actually some similarities that cannot be ignored.
- Home vs. Pro – Just as there are home 3D printers, there are home CNC machines. But if you’re looking for the highest quality in rapid prototyping, you’ll want to seek out professional rapid prototypers no matter the method you’re using.
- Programming – Both types of rapid prototyping require a file from which to work. That’s because they’re both…
- Computer Controlled – Both types of machines utilize a computer to make all movements of the prototyping machine.
Which Is Right For You?
If you’ve sought out 3DM Tool, there’s a good chance that you’re needing something a bit more robust than what you’ll get from 3D printing, especially if you’re in the medical or automotive industry. While 3D printing can be great for manufacturing something that’s decorative, rapid prototyping with CNC milling is what’s needed for something that will hold up to tests. If you’re ready to get the best test pieces for your business, contact 3DM Tool today.