How to choose prototype method between 3D printing & CNC?


When it comes to new product created by enterprises, choosing the right manufacturing technology plays an important role to make things go smoothly.

3D printing is based on adding materials layer by layer (additive manufacturing). To some extent we can say, CNC processing is the opposite service.

CNC is considered subtractive manufacturing because tools remove materials until they meet the demanded shape. Although both of them are suitable for similar materials, 3D printing services are usually a better choice if you need a small number of parts quickly at the lowest price. 3D printing also suitable for more difficult designs and materials. However, CNC is highly recommended for its accuracy, that is a good thing for mechanical parts.

Although there’s some limitations in terms of some tools in CNC, the approach is also applicable to small and large projects. 3D printing has a thickness specified by the printer nozzle, and the layers are usually visible in the finished product. Because of the production area, 3D printing usually has a smaller maximum size. 

As regarding to materials, CNC processing performs well in metal, while 3D printing is usually made of kinds of plastics. CNC is a reliable method if you want solid and reliable mechanical parts, but 3D printing does not have many geometric constraints.

In the two processes, CNC machine tools are the most labor-intensive. Engineers need to choose tools, speed and repositioning options, all these factors may affect the final product, including the required production time. The last piece may still need to be repaired. On the other hand, 3D printing starts quickly from the design file to the finished product. 

After the printing is done, the product may need to be cleaned, polished or otherwise completed.

How to decide which process is the best?
So easy - CNC offers are ideal for 250-500 quantities that do not require complex shapes, while 3D printing is best suitable for more complex shapes, prototypes and small quantities. If an order exceeds 500pieces, other processes are best considered.

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