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Will 3D Printing Replace CNC Machining

Since the 1950s, CNC machining has been the most common prototyping method. But what will tomorrow be like? Can 3D printing replace CNC? The answers are “yes” and “no.”. On the one hand, 3D printing has taken on some of the tasks that CNC manufacturing once did, but only a small part. On the other hand, as mentioned above, CNC processing is often cheaper than 3D printing. It can also be said that CNC machining is at the peak of its development. Some industrial CNC machining is like a small factory that combines small scale with large capabilities. They can complete an amazing number of tasks. However, they also have disadvantages. Fortunately, additive manufacturing saves what CNC cannot do. Additive manufacturing meets people’s imagination in terms of usage methods and applications. With a 3D printer, you can go from a rough draft to a finished product in a few days. In some cases, subtractive and additive manufacturing can overlap, but they both have their own advantages and disadvantages.
When should I use CNC machining? When should I use 3D printers?
The choice of technology should depend on its application. If you are not sure, you can refer to this simple advice: when CNC can be used, use CNC, and other times, use 3D printing. In some cases, it is possible to combine subtractive and additive manufacturing to achieve the final goal. For example, SLA and SLS 3D printing can be used as a preparatory stage for CNC manufacturing. 3D printing is mostly used when traditional methods cannot be used or there are materials that cannot be easily processed, such as alloys containing heavy metals. Subtractive and additive manufacturing can be likened to a fork and a knife; they can be used separately but are more efficient when used together. Therefore, hybrid equipment that combines the two methods is very popular now. Multifunctional systems can replace 3D printers and CNC equipment at the same time. There is relatively cheap desktop equipment and expensive industrial equipment worth tens of thousands of dollars.

So, CNC machining and 3D printing each have their own advantages and disadvantages. There is no trend for one to replace the other. It still depends on the different needs of the actual applications. Nowadays, 3D printing is more and more widely used in daily work and life. It is too early to say that 3D printing will replace CNC machining.

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