CNC Equipment vs. 3D Printing

In the 1940s, CNC equipment was among the first to emerge and was used to transform stock materials into finished products or prototype parts. Since then, technologies have advanced, and instead of punched tapes, most use CAD (Computer Aided Design) or CAM (Computer Aided Manufacturing) files to get the work done. This is not the same as 3D printing. It is important to understand the differences to select the right equipment for any particular job or task.

The Basic Differences

To understand the essential differences between CNC equipment and 3D printing systems is relatively simple. One takes a block of raw material and “machines” out the piece or part based on the specifications of a computer file. The other takes that same raw material but builds it layer by layer to make the end product. Both can effectively erase the risks of human error, and as is the case unique systems, both have their pros and cons:

  • CNC systems – These are far older and more common than 3D printing. This is the preferred option because it can be used to produce large scale items at a pace that is much faster than any 3D printing technologies. It is also a technology capable of working with almost any material without the need for additional machines for specific materials.
  • 3D printers – These are considered less wasteful since they build the part rather than carve it, but come with many disadvantages. They are limited in size and scale, they are not compatible with all materials, and they considered inappropriate for mass production.

Even the strongest advocates of 3D printing say that it is not likely to ever evolve enough to be capable of producing in the way that CNC systems do.

Choosing Your CNC Equipment Provider

Naturally, if you are in need of CNC gear, it is to your benefit to take the time and find only the highest quality providers. These are machines that are going to face a lot of hard work and they should be designed and built to last. For those in the Chicago area, CC Machine Tools offers an extensive catalog of CNC machinery, including 2, and multi-axis turning centers, vertical and horizontal options, boring mills, drilling and tapping machines, routers and water jets, accessories and more. Visit their site or get in touch to find out more about the many CNC machines available.

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