3D Printing Vs CNC Machining

Creating material objects from computer-driven machinery is undoubtedly the future of manufacturing. It is a cheap and effective way in which to produce a physical replica of a digital mock-up. There are many ways in which one can go about producing these objects but the main two ways are by using a 3D printer or CNC machining. The aim of this article is to conclude which method of creation is the most effective.

What are they?

3D printing is the process of creating various objects from a digital 3D model. This is carried out by the printer building up multiple layers of thin matter in order to produce a material reproduction. A 3D printer starts with nothing and gradually adds layers until the design is completed.

On the other hand, a Computer Numerical Control machine, otherwise known as CNC machining, removes layers from a block of matter until the sculpture is complete. It is a computerized device that creates parts of machinery for engineering and industry purposes and it does not require human beings to instruct or tell it how to function. The machine carries out its task once it has been sent commands by an internal computer.


3D printing is a particularly expensive business. The resin and glued powder used to build up the fine layers is costly and they don’t produce real objects that are able to be used in practical everyday life.

With CNC machinery, the price is independent of the size and volume; therefore it works out to be considerably cheaper than 3D printing.

Materials and Accuracy

3D printers are restricted to creating objects out of a small selection of materials. This means that the created object is low quality and is likely to not be very accurate.

In terms of accuracy, CNC machinery wins every time. CNC machines are able to work with any type of material, therefore they are more useful than 3D printers as the end result is more precise.

Ease of use

In terms of use, 3D printers are particularly simple to use. They do not require a lot of assistance when they are at work.

However, CNC equipment is particularly complex. It requires human expertise and knowledge in order to safely and successfully utilise its purpose.

So, who wins?

Overall, it is fair to say that CNC machinery offers a more cost effective service in producing material objects. It considerably more difficult to use than a 3D printer, but with the right level of expertise operating the machinery, it delivers a high quality, accurate representation of the original digital image.

Source by Debra P Banks

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