Do you have a home-based, small-scale manufacturing business in mind? Computer numeric controlled (CNC) milling is one option, and so is 3D printing. Both processes can happen with equipment you buy and operate on your own, or you can farm out the tasks to shops specializing in producing items with both these kinds of equipment, as you’ll see.
CNC & 3D Printing
CNC milling and 3D printing may be different in terms of the processes involved, but both serve a common purpose of creating parts with precision. And with the explosion in small scale production of items, these technologies can work well as part of a home based business.
Taking the plunge to unpack these processes can help you decide which approach better suits your needs, so let’s look at the main talking points and bring you up to speed comprehensively.
The Benefits of Choosing CNC Milling
CNC milling is a subtractive manufacturing strategy, and has been around for a long time. It uses computer-guided cutting tools to mill metal and other materials and make parts pre-designed on computer. Here are a few compelling reasons why this might be an excellent choice:
- High Precision: With state-of-the-art software control over the mill or lathe, CNC machining offers high-level accuracy.
- Material Versatility: This method can handle any rigid material, from metals like steel and aluminum to hardwoods and plastics.
- Scalability: While it’s great for creating single parts or prototypes, CNC milling is also efficient when scaling up to production level quantities.
- Stronger Parts: Unlike 3D printing that uses layers of materials, the structural integrity provided by cutting directly from solid material blocks makes products more durable.
The Advantages of Opting for 3D Printing
Maybe you’re thinking about using 3D printing as part of a home manufacturing business? Here are some potential advantages:
- Cost-Effective Prototyping: To produce just a few parts, it’s usually less expensive than CNC milling. And if you’re setting up a workshop on a budget, the hardware is also more affordable.
- Simplicity: With minimum setup requirements and easy design capability, 3D printing is beginner-friendly.
- Complex Geometry Compatibility: It can print complex shapes and internal structures that might be impossible with traditional subtractive methods like CNC milling.
- Less Material Waste: Unlike in CNC where material cuts away during the process, there’s minimal waste as only the necessary material is used up in forming layers. Even getting rid of planer waste can be a chore, so eliminating milled waste materials makes sense.
Using an Online CNC Service
If the idea of pricey hardware is holding you back from trying CNC milling, don’t fret. Online CNC services are here to save the day.
With the help of an online CNC service, you can place custom orders and have them made up for you, so you don’t need to splash out on costly hardware yourself.
These platforms simplify obtaining specific parts without needing technical knowledge or investing in equipment.
Also bear in mind that there are 3D printing companies. These can turn CAD designs you supply into full-blown physical components in much the same way. So regardless of your needs or preferences, the option to outsource the production of equipment parts and accessories is always there for you.
Making the Right Choice
In short, both CNC milling and 3D printing have their distinct strengths. The key to making the right choice depends on your specific needs. Here are the things you need to consider before committing to a particular approach:
- Complex & Intricate Designs: If your design features a high level of complexity or unique internal structures, go for 3D printing.
- Material Strength & Precision: For those looking at durability and precision, lean more towards CNC milling.
- Budget Considerations: Evaluate costs carefully. While initial outlays for 3D can be cheaper thanks to lower equipment costs, CNC machining may prove more cost-effective if longevity and component life cycle is considered.
Also keep in mind that online services are available for both methods, so you don’t need to invest in machinery yourself. Even if you don’t end up using such a service, getting in touch to talk through the ins and outs of your project with an expert will be useful.
Making an informed decision after considering all these factors will ensure success in creating useful home equipment.