Will 3D Printing Replace Machining

3D Printing has become a hot topic around the world over the past couple of years,even though 3D Printing methodology has been in practice since the late 1980s. However, its popularity-by-name has grown so vastly lately – based on the swift advancement of technology, as well as its availability now on the consumer-level with miniature desktop 3D Printers, among others. “3D Printer” has become a household name…

Although 3D Printing has some amazing features and potential, when it comes to manufacturing close tolerance parts, it does not yet achieve the precision of subtractive CNC machining for various reasons:

  1. The practice of achieving close tolerances with additive manufacturing has not been a primary focal point for its usage. The main focus of 3D Printing in critical industries has been for rapid prototyping, and small rapid production runs. The speed of 3D Printers is still relatively slow across-the-board, leaving much to be desired for mass production.
  2. The materials in which 3D Printers are capable of using are still somewhat limited. When 3D Printing plastic parts, the materials used are mostly virgin polymers optimal for extrusion using filament to feed the extrusion nozzle heads. This not only limits what types of materials that can be printed, but also the variations in shapes and sizes.
  3. Although 3D Printers are capable of producing full assemblies without the need for multiple components, the tolerances required for many critical applications might not be as easily achieved or measurable. Multiple parts making-up an assembly can individually be scrutinized and revised according to the application, which helps produce optimal end results.

So to answer the question: Will 3D Printing replace traditional CNC machining?
The answer is: not right now.

Why Would you Want 3D Printing to Replace Precision Machining?

There is much to benefit with 3D Printing, and with the current pace of its advancement in technology, speed, and capabilities, it is certain to break more ground in the very near future. But should it even be considered as a replacement for high-speed, precision machining? Or should it be left as a vehicle to get parts in to production? Time will only tell, but in the meantime, critical industries with close tolerance needs continue to count on CNC milling, turning, and Swiss screw machining.

Want to save money and receive fast turn-around times? Contact our consultants at Tamshell today!