Benefits of Combining CNC Machining and 3D Printing in Additive Manufacturing

Thinking of integrating CNC machining 3D printing technology in your additive manufacturing firm? Read on to find out the benefits and drawbacks to watch out for. 

Combining CNC machining with 3D printing can potentially bring many advantages to your manufacturing company’s operations. Let us take a closer look at how a combination of the two technologies can benefit your business.

Overview of CNC Machining and 3D Printing

Before we look at the benefits of combining CNC machining and 3D printing, let us first remind ourselves of the basics of each manufacturing process.

Computer Numerical Control machining involves CNC machining tools like mills, lathes, and drills. The equipment is automated by computer instructions.

CNC machining can be used with a wide variety of materials, including metal, plastic, wood, and ceramics, to create customized parts or products. The CNC machining process is a subtractive manufacturing process.

3D printing, on the other hand, uses the additive manufacturing process; creating objects one layer at a time with any supported material.

Both CNC machines and 3D printers have many benefits for machining different types of parts. But when the two technologies are used simultaneously, you can bring unparalleled efficiency to the manufacturing process.

Buying machinery does not have to cost you an arm and a leg either, as much used high-quality equipment is available to purchase. You will find a broad range of used fabrication and CNC machinery from leading brands at Revelation Machinery.

Benefits of Combining CNC Machining and 3D Printing in Additive Manufacturing 1 

Applications for Combined CNC Machining and 3D Printing

Combining CNC machining and 3D printing does not require a complex workflow. Indeed, the main benefit of combining the two technologies is improving efficiency of your manufacturing company’s production by overcoming the limitations that the two processes have separately.

For example, if you want to make a product from plastic but you know the additive method of 3D printing will not provide the precision you need due to tight tolerances, you can make the part with a 3D printer and then deploy a CNC machine to trim it to the required dimensions. Thus, you can easily eradicate any imperfections that could have arisen during the additive manufacturing process.

Using a combination of the two processes is also ideal for time-sensitive operations. For instance, if you need to produce replacement components within a short time frame, and therefore you do not have the time to wait for molding dies to be fashioned, you can set up a sequence of processing using both CNC machines and 3D printers. You then do not have to worry about any delays getting in the way of progress.

Furthermore, because both CNC and 3D print processes use Computer-Aided Design files to provide instructions to the machines, it is easy to make changes to the designs as and when needed. 

Benefits of Combining the Two Technologies

There are many advantages to combining CNC-machine and 3D-printer operations. Here is a more detailed look at the key benefits of combining the two technologies. 

Better Tolerances

Firstly, you get the best of both worlds by combining CNC machines and 3D printers into your machine shop. You can use the rapid prototyping of 3D printers, but at the same time, you can create greater tolerance. Instead of the 0.1 mm to 0.3 mm tolerance that 3D printers typically have, you can render approximately 0.025 mm to 0.125 mm with a CNC milling machine.

cnc machining partsUsing the two technologies together, you can create rapid prototypes that are consistent and accurate. 

Processes Can Be Sped Up 

Injection molding requires the design and creation of specialized tools to see each workpiece through the process. This takes quite come time. 

You can speed up manufacturing processes by combining 3D printing with CNC machining. That is because it is easier to adjust computer instructions of machinery than it is to make changes to an existing injection molding tool. 

Sustainable and Stable Production 

By combining 3D printing and CNC machining, you can get better results in terms of size and precision. Using the two technologies together also enables your manufacturing company to achieve stable production results.

The combination of the two processes will result in high-volume repeatability and shortened lead times, which is essential for sustainable and stable production. 

Advantages of Hybrid Machines 

While combining 3D printing and CNC machining typically refers to creating 3D items and then subjecting them to CNC milling, there are also industrial hybrid machines that combine the two methods for you, such as the milling machines available from Multifax. These new hybrid machines can mill the surface of a new 3D printed part while the operation is still in progress.

The equipment may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, with it, you can build large volume objects up to approximately 40ft in diameter and up to 10ft tall. This means that you can make products and parts from very large workpieces. 

By using hybrid machinery that uses both subtractive and additive manufacturing processes, your manufacturing company can bring its production up to another level and maximize its productivity. You can achieve faster manufacturing processes, lower costs, and less waste material.

A hybrid machine enables you to go way beyond what is possible with separate subtractive and additive technologies. 

Things to Consider 

Combining CNC machining and 3D printing processes has many benefits. However, there are also some disadvantages. When you are aware of the potential pitfalls, you can stop problems from occurring.

For example, if you create a product using 3D printing and then use a CNC machine for finishing, the CNC equipment could exhaust the layers of the product, leaving you with no material underneath to work with. In that case, the workpiece would have to be discarded.

Similarly, if parts are particularly irregular, there is a higher chance that machining will lead to material being excessively removed. 

Another potential problem is finding operators who are experts in both CNC machines and 3D printers. The professionals should be well-skilled in the processes and limitations of each type of machinery. If you are planning to use a hybrid machine, your operators should be well-experienced sufficient in using it.

However, the downsides are pretty negligible when compared to the many advantages that combining CNC machining with 3D printing bring.

Benefits of Combining CNC Machining and 3D Printing in Additive Manufacturing 2
Inconel 718 is added to create new part features on this 304 stainless steel cylinder

At the end of the day, as long as you train your workforce accordingly or hire experts from the start, you can avoid the pitfalls and reap the benefits of using both CNC machines and 3D printers in your company.

Final Thoughts 

Overall, the benefits of combining CNC machining and 3D printing technologies far outweigh the disadvantages. However, you still need to consider the specific applications for your particular manufacturing operations. Some industries are better suited to a combination of manufacturing methods than others. Therefore, your decision may be reliant on the type of parts you produce.

Once you determine that using CNC machines in combination with 3D printers is the way to go for your company, you can make an informed decision on whether to use the two technologies simultaneously or outrightly invest in hybrid machinery. 

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