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What’s the difference between CNC Machining and 3D Printing

2017-05-17    Author:KAIAO

In the process of product design, after we complete the design drawings, what we want to know most is how the design looks like, whether the appearance and the design ideas are consistent, structural design is reasonable or not, and so on. Generally speaking, prototypes are functional samples made according to the drawings to check the appearance or structural rationality. CNC Machining and 3D Printing are two main ways to do rapid prototyping. We will discuss the difference between 3D printing and CNC machining below.

Features of 3D Printing and CNC Machining

CNC machining is efficient, accurate and economical while 3D printing is able to make prototypes that traditional machining, including CNC machining, is difficult to make or simply can not achieve. 3D Printing is of high degree of freedom.


3D printing technology, such as (SLA, SLS, etc.), needs structural support in the implementation process, if not prototypes can not be manufactured, which is believed to be a big bottleneck for the further development of 3D printing.


Traditional CNC processing industry has been in developing for a long period, and there is already a mature standard in principal axis, cutting tool interface, or control system, however, there is currently no such standards, and it takes really long for the standard to be established.
The result of the difference between the two is that 3D printing allows you to manufacturing a powerful and unconstrained style prototype, while CNC machining has more advantages in large prototypes making and the economy is better.

Major Difference between CNC Machining and 3D Printing

In addition to the above difference between 3D printing and CNC machining, there is another obvious difference: Additive Manufacturing and Subtractive Manufacturing.
3D Printing is additive manufacturing which is to add materials to molds, similar to squeezing toothpaste and finally the prototype is accumulated.
CNC machining is subtractive manufacturing which is to do "subtraction" and cut and remove materials from the whole piece of raw materials continuously until the final model is produced. 
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