3D Printing vs CNC: What’s the Difference and How Can You Get Started With Each

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Modern manufacturing tech is amazingly advanced, and more accessible than ever. But the trouble you’ll face when choosing between the equipment on offer is knowing which is right for your needs.

The contrast between 3D printing and CNC machinery is an important one to grasp in this context, so read on for an explanation of each, which should help you choose wisely.

Exploring the Basics: What Is 3D Printing and CNC?

These two processes are both used in manufacturing, but they’re quite different. 3D printing is a type of additive manufacturing that creates physical objects from digital models. On the other hand, Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining is a subtractive process that involves cutting away material with high-powered tools like routers or lathes.

Both technologies have their own advantages and drawbacks, so let’s explore them further and expand your understanding in the process.

Comparing Costs: How Much Do You Need to Invest in Each Method?

When it comes to investing in 3D printing or CNC machines, the cost of entry varies widely. Generally speaking, 3D printers are much more affordable than CNC machines, as you can get a basic model for under $200.

On the other hand, most decent-quality desktop CNCs start around $2k and go up from there. It’s also important to consider ongoing costs like supplies (filament/resin for 3D printing, wood/metal stock and cutting tools for CNC machining) as well as maintenance fees over time.

Buying Your First CNC Machine: Tips for Shopping Smartly

If you’re looking to invest in a desktop-level CNC machine, there are several factors to consider. Think about the size of the material that can be cut by the bed and its maximum speed.

You’ll also want to ask yourself what type of materials you intend on working with, whether that’s wood, aluminum, or anything else. Make sure your chosen machine has compatible software as well.

Finally, don’t forget to compare prices online before making any major purchases. Do some research and see if similar models cost less elsewhere. You can also use a site like Revelation Machinery to buy and sell CNC machines, with second hand models being available at lower prices, which is great if you’re on a budget.

Getting Started with 3D Printing: Choosing a Printer and Materials

If you’re just getting started with 3D printing, there are several considerations to take into account before jumping ahead, whether you’re working solo or part of a design team.

First, pick out the right printer for your needs. Consider factors like build volume, print speed and resolution. Then decide on what type of filament or resin material you want to use (PLA? PETG? Resin?), as well as its quality level (budget vs professional).

Finally, be sure to check online reviews from other users before investing in any particular model. There are new examples arriving on the scene regularly, so you don’t want to be stuck with an outdated example if something fresh and better suited to your projects is on offer.

Learning the Lingo – Essential Terms to Know When Working With Both Technologies

Before you get started with 3D printing or CNC machining, it’s important to familiarize yourself with some of the common terms used in these fields. 

This includes:

  • Bed Size: Maximum dimensions for cut material on a CNC machine
  • Layer Height: How thick each layer of an object should be when 3D printing
  • CAD (Computer Aided Design): Used in designing objects created with either type of technology via modern software solutions
  • G-Code: Programming language used to control machines like routers & lathes

Final Thoughts

Now you know what separates 3D printing from CNC equipment and techniques, you’re primed to pick which machinery is right for you. Just keep an eye on your budget, rather than getting carried away!

Cover Image by Никита Лазоренко from Pixabay

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