3D printing and machining: how to combine them for your benefits? | Sculpteo Blog

3D printing and machining: how to combine them for your benefits?

Posted By Kat Plewa on Oct 23, 2019 | 0 comments

Additive Manufacturing is constantly bringing new innovations to the manufacturing world. From new materials to cutting-edge technologies, it allows for a faster design process and gives absolutely new production solutions. Combining 3D printing with traditional machining also brings new benefits. What are they? Let’s find what are the advantages of combining Additive and Subtractive Manufacturing!


What is the difference between Additive and Subtractive Manufacturing technologies?



Additive Manufacturing, otherwise known as 3D printing, creates objects by adding layers. There are different materials available, such as plastic, resin or metals and others. The quality depends on technology and the 3D printer. You probably heard of FDM technology, and while it’s great for prototyping, industrial 3D printing technologies such as SLS can actually provide you with much better quality and professional-grade parts.


cnc machining



Subtractive Manufacturing, such as CNC machining or milling, is a technology that shapes the part by removing material with a drill. There are various CNC machining materials that can be used in this process, for instance, wood, plastic, and metal.


Are there any similarities? Yes. Both 3D printing and machining involves a 3D file and the production process is automated. Both are also capable of producing, robust, strong, and fully functional parts. End parts can be manufactured with either method, but it is especially interesting to combine them in order to achieve the best quality possible.

What are the benefits of combining 3D printing and CNC machining?

  1. It’s a time and cost-saver

One place where 3D printing can complement CNC machining is material waste. CNC or milling usually works with a block of raw material where the material is subtracted from the block. That means a lot of material can’t be reused, but a lot of 3D printing technologies offer this option.


There are even machines that combine 3D printing and CNC machining during one production process. Every 10th layer of 3D printing, a CNC machine was used to drill highly accurate canals. This solution means a shorter lead time even by 10 weeks! That brings production costs dramatically down.


In addition to that, using both manufacturing techniques allows for new design solutions. Parts that had to be put together now can be produced as one, which totally eliminates the assembly time, again lowering the costs.


  1. Precision in terms of tolerances

Additive and Subtractive technologies are used in many fields in the automotive, aerospace or robotics industries. One of the critical aspects of production in those businesses is precision and accuracy. The tolerances of manufacturing parts are very low and the success of the whole project depends on them.


Despite that 3D printing is capable of some impressive quality and small layer thickness, the surface of the parts can still sometimes be porous. This is exactly why traditional machining methods can improve the 3D printed parts. They can give them a smooth surface finish or provide additional details.


Thanks to combining both manufacturing methods, it is also possible to improve cooling systems and water canals. This is a solution especially interesting for producing metal molds.


  1. Size matters

Bringing the worlds of subtractive and additive manufacturing together also allows pushing the design boundaries even further. 3D printing will give you totally new design freedom to reinvent mechanical parts. Improve tools by hollowing, complex geometries and achieving even smaller parts.


On the other hand, you might need a really big part. This is where 3D printing can also come in handy. Combining it with CNC machining will result in high quality, complex parts with the exact details you need.


  1. Maximize productivity

Hybrid machines that operate Subtractive and Additive Manufacturing at the same time can bring your production to another level and completely maximize productivity. 


When it comes to the production itself, you can achieve lower-costs, faster manufacturing process, and less material waste. In terms of new design solutions, 3D printing and CNC machining will provide you with better details, higher accuracy, and precision. 


All those benefits will result in improved productivity allowing you to reach beyond what is possible with Subtractive and Additive technologies separately.


  1. Sustainable and stable production

Using both 3D printing and CNC machining for your production will give you better design results not only when it comes to size, complex geometries, and precision, but also regarding stable production results.


Combining those manufacturing techniques will result in high-volume repeatability and aside from less material waste and shorted lead time, this is essential for sustainable production.


What is the future of CNC machining and Additive Manufacturing?

As you can see Additive Manufacturing combined with traditional manufacturing technologies can bring your production process to an absolutely new level. There is a big potential of 3D printing being the technology of production, especially combined with CNC machining or milling. It is very beneficial as it brings new design possibilities, speeds up production, and moreover, makes the manufacturing process more efficient.


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