CNC Machining vs. 3D Printing – Which Do You Need 2022?

3D printing is evolving quickly. And this evolution has led manufacturers across industries to evolve their manufacturing processes and even choose between different kinds of printing processes. Choosing between CNC machining and 3D printing has become a hot topic. Many believe CNC machining is still the go-to process, while others are leaning more towards 3D printing. There are many reasons why this debate has become a hot topic in recent times.

In this blog, we will discuss reasons whether 3D printing is preferable over CNC machining and which process you should be adopting going forward. 

Let’s take a look at some key areas before you decide between the two processes.

Physical Considerations


CNC Machining and 3D printing are both limited by their tool size. But the key difference is that the CNC tool has a limit of how small of a negative feature it can create, and 3D printing has a limitation of how small of a positive feature it can create. 

CNC machining’s limit usually lies between a minimum of 3.2 mm and 1mm. In comparison, 3D printers can go a step further. Their limit lies between 0.8 mm and 0.25 mm. 

Surface Finish

For a smooth surface finish, CNC machining may be preferable as the tools that CNC machining uses are adept at producing a fine surface finish. On the other hand, 3D printing is much more preferable for producing parts that fit with accuracy. Exceptional smoothness is only achievable with CNC machining. For now. 


Though tolerance varies according to the machine that you are using, it is generally evident that dimensional tolerance features are the best in 3D printers. 3D printers’ tolerance can go down to a margin of 0.005. Give or take. But it is good to remember that it also depends on the part being produced, the material being used, and the part’s geometry. 


Structural parts have, for a long time, been much more convenient to produce through CNC machining. That is because CNC machining can usually produce load-bearing parts much more efficiently than 3D printing. That is why non-structural parts are a much more convenient option to produce through 3D printing.


In this circumstance, both processes stand equal. They are both capable of producing parts in metals and polymers. So, the process that is used depends upon which process is readily available. 


Again, both CNC machining and 3D printing are capable of handling the temperatures required to produce metals and polymers required. So, the process that you utilize depends upon which process is available first.

Economic Considerations


If the availability of the part is needed urgently, then CNC machining is the best process. This is considering all materials, operators and machines are available for use.

If the part can wait or if it isn’t urgent, then 3D printing is the preferable option, as it can open up the other machines to more urgent tasks or productions that might need attention.

CNC machining is much quicker at carving out the desired part than 3D printing is capable of producing it. So, your choice depends on the urgency of the part production.

But 3D printing is quicker in the sense that you don’t have to do much compared to CNC machining to get the printer to produce a part. Whereas, CNC machining requires getting stock, writing the appropriate G-code, work holding, and much more before the part production process can begin.


Outsourcing has its advantages. 3D printing and CNC Machining services can take up the workload from you. Though the processes used to be lengthy, they have shortened considerably to where out-of-house machining or printing has become quite the preferable option. Especially to those that can’t accommodate their workload on their in-house machining or printing processes.


Though 3D printing has evolved quite a bit, there is something to be said about CNC machining and its advantages. And so, until 3D printing evolves even further in those aspects, CNC machining will keep the edge in certain areas. But slowly, it seems as though 3D printing is making other processes more redundant due to its low costs of operation and efficiency.
If you are looking for the services of 3D printing or CNC machining in Australiathen should be your destination. As we offer those services and much more at very affordable prices.

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