Metal Fabrication Resources by Blackstone Advanced Technologies

Blackstone Advanced Technologies Blog
Jul 26, 2019 8:00:00 AM

3d Printing Vs. CNC Machining

3D printers have gotten a lot of press over the last few years because they give small operations and individuals opportunities to make prototypes in-house.


CNC (computer numerical control) machines have a much longer history than 3D printers. The first CNC machines were built in the 1940s whereas the first 3D printer wasn't made until 1983.


The two technologies have some similar features, but they also offer different benefits. When choosing a production method, it pays to know how each of these machines work.


3D Printing Uses Computers and Plastic to Build Objects


3D printers have a lot in common with inkjet printers. The device receives information from computer software to build an object one layer at a time. With each pass of the nozzle, a new layer gets added to the object until you have a complete, 3D print.


Benefits of 3D Printing


Some of the benefits of 3D printing include:

  • Low cost to test prototype ideas.
  • The freedom to test several designs.
  • Fast production that usually only takes a few hours.
  • Less waste because it only uses the plastic needed to build an object.

Disadvantages of 3D Printing


Like all technologies, 3D printing also has some disadvantages, including:

  • Harmful emissions that can pollute the air.
  • Too much plastic that can take 1,000 years to decompose.
  • Difficulty training employees to use the technology.
  • An inability to manufacture large numbers of products.

CNC Machining Uses Computers to Sculpt Objects


While 3D printing builds objects one layer at a time, CNC machining sculpts objects from blocks of material. More often than not, today's CNC machines follow software instructions to carve objects with water, plasma, and other cutting mediums.

You can use CNC machining to make a design from almost any material, including:

  • Foam
  • Copper
  • Steel
  • Brass
  • Titanium
  • Aluminum
  • Plastic
  • Wood
  • Fiberglass

Benefits of CNC Machining


Companies get a lot of benefits from CNC machining. Some of the top benefits include:

  • The option to use such a wide range of materials.
  • Easy operation that doesn't require much training.
  • Fast results from a machine that can operate 24 hours a day.
  • Precise replicas of the object's design.

Disadvantages of CNC Machining


Of course, there are some disadvantages to CNC machines. The process can waste a lot of material because it carves objects instead of building them. Also, operators need to pay close attention to their machines since tiny flaws will get repeated.




3D printers work great for companies that want to produce low-cost prototypes. When it comes to mass manufacturing, though, CNC machining usually makes more sense.


You can always contact Blackstone Advanced Technologies to speak with a professional about the production method that suits your needs better.


Which would you choose for your company?  Leave a comment below.