When it comes to production, 3D printing is often compared to other manufacturing technologies. Indeed, this technology can truly help optimize how to run a regular machine shop. For instance, it can perfectly complement CNC mill. Here are 10 reasons why 3D printing can help a machine shop run its jobs more efficiently, gain time, and use a wider range of materials.
1. Prioritizing jobs: CNC Milling isn’t efficient for small batches and complex parts
The CNC mill is often the machine that gets the highest demand. And if you receive many orders for your CNC mill, you will have to face the problem of jobs selection and jobs organization: how to arrange your machine’s work-time most efficiently? Which jobs should be prioritized to optimize ROI? How to accept as many orders as possible without compromising on meeting deadlines? How can you satisfy all of your customers and make your machine run just full enough, just often enough, without losing time on changes of settings?
Once this is said, it becomes clear that there will be mishaps and job overloads. Complex parts and small batches increase the settings time and reduce efficiency and ROI. Buying an additional CNC mill is not always a possibility because of cost, handling needs, etc. Turning to 3D printing might be a solution for you.
2. 3D Printing is cheap and efficient for complex parts and small batches!
We’ve realized several studies on the benefits of traditional manufacturing techniques vs 3D printing for different kinds of parts and batches. As you will see in our ebook comparing 3D printing to injection molding, 3D printing is less costly and more efficient in terms of ROI and lead time, precisely for complex parts and small batches. 3D printing can even help you avoid extra post-process steps that would have been unavoidable with CNC milling for some complex parts: for example, soft jaws geometries might require surface milling operations with a ball nose end mill, which will be avoided with 3D printing.
Because of this complementarity with CNC milling, 3D printing is an extra asset for your machine shop: instead of refusing jobs that would be too much for your CNC mill, you can 3D print them. It might take some extra time allocating jobs to each machine, but the overall gain will be worth it!
3. 3D printing materials are strong enough for your production needs
The time when 3D printing could only use low-quality plastics, with poor resolution is far behind now! Recent 3D printers can use a very wide range of materials and achieve extremely high resolution and strength. Thanks to 3D printing techniques like SLS, DMLS, SLM, 3D printed parts achieve industrial quality. 3D printing materials can be high-quality plastics, but also metals and resins, with very interesting properties. This diversity and strength of the materials will enable you to satisfy your customers as well with 3D printing as you would have by using time on your CNC mill.
To learn more about the possible range of 3D printing materials, visit our 3D printing materials catalog. In particular, you can read about the properties of our Aluminium, Titanium, Binder Jetting Stainless Steel, CarbonMide, PEBA, and many others…
4. 3D printing gives you more leeway to adapt your materials
On top of this, 3D printing can help you adapt the chosen material to the job’s needs: for example, aluminium is often used for prototypes realized with CNC milling, because plastic is complicated to work on with this technique. 3D printing has the advantage of working perfectly with plastics, and is often an ideal solution for prototypes, as you can read in our many 3D printing customer stories.
5. 3D Printing will help with quality control
The advantage of CNC milling is that it can churn out a great number of the same part. The issue is that it often gets difficult to ensure quality control for these mass-produced parts. 3D printing a gage to check that the parts fit the initial shape can be a way to improve quality control. This is a different way to improve your machine shop’s efficiency with 3D printing.
6. The market for affordable, high-quality 3D printers is ripe
Even though 3D printing has been around for decades, there is now a much wider range of 3D printers, and finding the one that will fit your budget while producing quality parts is now easier than ever. This is one of the reasons why it is a good time to include 3D printing into your production flow! Read our guide to professional 3D printers for more information.
7. Online 3D printing services make top-level industrial 3D printers accessible to all!
However, adding 3D printing to your machine shop doesn’t necessarily mean investing in a 3D printer: it can be costly, and it also requires special skills that you might not want to invest time and resources into. Thanks to online 3D printing services, that use top-level industrial 3D printers, you can outsource the effort while keeping control over the production, and benefiting from the expertise of specialized technicians. For example, on the Sculpteo website, when you’ve uploaded a 3D file, you can analyse, repair and optimize this file with our online tools, manage your batch with Batch Control, manage your order autonomously online and, of course, if you need it, benefit from the help of a skilled support team.
8. If you master CAD, you can master 3D printing as well as CNC milling
3D printing and CNC milling both have a CAD file as their starter point. A well-conceived 3D model created for CNC milling can often be used for 3D printing with some minor changes. All you need is to check that the file respects the design guidelines associated with the 3D printing material and technology you’ve chosen.
9. Education on 3D printing is widely available
If you feel like you’re not skilled enough to start using 3D printing for your production, know that you can at least start your education online, as well as benefit from the help of experts, as I just explained. This is another reason why we are in the golden age of 3D printing: learning sources are widely available. You can start by checking out our free ebooks on 3D printing, and our 3D printing blog.
10. The factory of the future: combining digital manufacturing techniques
To conclude, 3D printing is a great complement to CNC milling, it is easily available thanks to new 3D printers and 3D printing services, as well as accessible education. And this is a premise for what we call the factory of the future: combining several digital manufacturing techniques to achieve the best possible results. This is what we stepped toward a year ago when we launched our online laser cutting service, as a complement to our 3D printing service. To improve your workflow, we invite you to do the same: combine, learn, and make the most of the digital manufacturing techniques available to you!
If you want to get started with 3D printing, you can upload a file right now, and try our online 3D printing service!