CNC Manufacturing vs 3D Printing

Nov 8, 2021 | 3D printing, CNC Machining | 0 comments

When it comes to modern on demand manufacturing, there are a lot of options out there, whether you’re looking for something unique and custom or for large production for consumers. There are so many options that it can be hard to find the right one for you.

Two of the most prominent and accessible manufacturing methods are CNC (Computer Numerical Control) and 3D printing. While very similar in many ways, each has its pros and cons for different products.

CNC and 3D printing both work from computer models, usually a CAD file that has been properly formatted and prepared. This allows for greater precision than with older manufacturing methods. The machine being used will follow the file’s directions exactly every single time it runs. 

At Jawstec, we most often work with CAD files in STL, OBJ, STP, or STEP files. You can use a file in this format with our 3D printing free quote generator to see our estimate for 3D printing your project. 


So which to use? CNC manufacturing or 3D printing?

CNC manufacturing is subtractive manufacturing. It uses a computer to direct mills, presses, and other traditional manufacturing methods. This is sometimes the best method to create a product. Products with more conventional angles, gaps, and overall formats are good choices for CNC manufacturing. CNC can work very fast, especially when creating several products at once.

CNC works with a variety of materials, though most often it works with wood or metal. These materials lend themselves well to milling and other forms of CNC machining. Some plastics can be used with CNC as well, though it is a far less diverse and unique set of plastics than 3D printing due to concerns of deformation.

3D printing has fewer limits, as it does not have the limitations with angles that CNC machines have. Unusual and difficult angles that aren’t possible to create with other methods are easily doable here. Minor details that are not normally easy to do, and may even need to be done by hand, can be 3D printed with the right printer and properly prepared CAD file. 3D printing is relatively quick when creating detailed products, but it can take several hours for finer details. It is possible to print more than one product at once but this requires careful design considerations. You’ll only pay for the material you use, as 3D printing can recycle what little waste material it produces.

When it comes to 3D printing, there are a wide array of materials it can print. Plastic is the best known 3D printing material. These plastics can range from hard plastic to more rubbery kinds to new, modern polymers that can be used to specialized products. This allows 3D printing to create products that can be used for things as specialized as prosthetics and other custom-built medical equipment.  Metal can also be printed using Selective Laser Sintering printers and powdered metals. Wood is not currently printable, though there are polymers that have wood fibers embedded in them that can be printed, giving some wood-like properties to the final product. This diversity of materials makes 3D printing capable of creating anything from medical equipment to jewelry.

At the end of the day, the right method to use will depend on your product, budget, and time needs. At Jawstec, our team has worked with both CNC manufacturing and 3D printing for years. We can direct you to the right method as well as help you refine your design so that it looks and does exactly what you need.

Contact us for a quote today so your product can start becoming a reality.


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