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We live in an era where Uber has taken over taxi ranks. Where Kindles have replaced books, and where Netflix has replaced DVDs. It’s undeniable that the more advanced technology becomes the more it is replacing traditional methods. So are 3D Printers going to take over CNC Machines as we know them?

CNC Machines and 3D Printers are both types of object manufacturing yet they draw a lot of comparisons. When I first heard the concept of “3D Printing”, my mind was blown. I immediately imagined being able to print things from my laptop using my normal printer and make them come to life! While 3D Printing may not be EXACTLY as simple as that, it’s still a pretty impressive advance in technology.  Nowadays there are a number of different types of 3D Printers out there to choose from.

CNC Machines VS 3D Printing

CNC Machines, or Computer Numerical Control, are a type of conventional manufacturing that use computers to control tools. Design files are entered into a computer which sends the machine the code instructing them what to do.  (Simple right?) They take a material like wood and use sharp tools to carve specific shapes and get rid of all the unnecessary parts. While CNC machines cut, 3D printers build different objects via layering. They have replaced traditional factory production with just one machine. It works from the bottom, layer by layer and can even create moving parts like wheels! However, some people argue that 3D Printing is technically one type of CNC Machine, so really it would be impossible for them to be replaced.

So how do they differ exactly?

The beauty of CNC machines is that they are pretty versatile. They can quite easily cut through a variety of materials; plastic, metal, wood, wax, the list goes on. This contrasts however with 3D Printers which are usually restricted to thermoplastics or resins. Although it can mix thermoplastics with other materials like wood, ceramic, and metal, they probably won’t be as good as if they were cut from a block of wood on a CNC machine. But it isn’t just the style of printing that makes them different. The speed of a 3D printer is significantly slower than a CNC machine.

CNC Machine

Image Credit: foter.com

What is stopping 3D Printing from taking over?

A future without CNC Machines seems pretty unlikely due to a few limitations that 3D printers still have. The fact that they use the layer method means they aren’t equipped for creating large objects.One of the common types of 3D Printers is LSM (Selective Laser Melting). Whilst they are impressive pieces of machinery for metals, the surface finish is pretty rough.  As it stands the end product of a CNC Machine is much better than that of a 3D Printer. They offer accuracy, speed, and are perfect for repetitive manufacturing and larger scale jobs.

Like most things, the cost is also a big factor. 3D Printers can be extremely expensive in a number of ways. Not only the machine alone but they take a much bigger workforce to be operated and maintained. It might not be worth it when you take into consideration that they can literally take hours to print.

Don’t get me wrong, there are obviously some benefits of 3D Printers. The flexibility and adaptability they offer means they can switch quickly between jobs. This also means they are perfect for creating unique, one-of-a-kind designs that suit a wide variety customers in all walks of life.

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Are CNC Machines Soon To Be Replaced By 3D Printers?
It's undeniable that the more advanced technology becomes the more it is replacing traditional methods. So are 3D Printers going to take over CNC Machines as we know them?
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