Solid prototyping of parts has traditionally caused major obstacles in the product development cycle. Traditional prototyping used to be time-consuming and costly, but the worst influence was it caused significant delays in product development.
In the past, prototypes were made manually. Lately, with increasingly advanced machining technologies becoming more affordable and accessible, a growing number of rapid prototyping services
companies are bringing relevant facilities in house, such as CNC machines and 3D printers. CNC processing boasts of wide material treatment, high tolerance and fine surface, while 3D printing is featured by fast speed, complex structure and high material usage. CNC machining had taken the prototyping market by storm before 3D printing came out. However, with the ever increasing hype over such 3D printing technologies as SLA, SLS, FDM, etc, the competition between CNC and 3D print is growing more intense. Companies are swaying.
3D Printer or CNC Machine: Should it be an either-or Proposition?
Anthony Graves, product manager at Autodesk company(a global leader in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software), believes the answer to that question is not always. He says, over the next couple of years, engineers are going to recognize that just like there’s value in having a 3D printer --- there’s tremendous value in having a CNC machine.
For a simple smaller part, to create a 3D print might take a couple of hours, whereas with a CNC machine, that same part could be produced within 20 minutes. As a result, for many parts, it’s faster to machine them than to print them. By contrast, for parts that cannot be done economically or quickly on a CNC machine, producers should use a printer.
“For prototyping, you shouldn’t choose between a 3D printer and a CNC machine, you should have both,” says Graves, “3D printing is all the rage, but it really shouldn’t be an either-or proposition because the two technologies complement each other. I could go out and for several thousand dollars buy a very respectable 3D printer with decent resolution, but I can also buy a bench-top CNC machine for the same amount of money.”
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