CNC Machining vs 3D Printer – What is the difference?

Are you stuck between using CNC machining and 3D printing? Or not sure whether CNC machining is better than a 3D printer? Many people do not know the difference between these two manufacturing methods. 

CNC machining service and 3D Printing are the two standard manufacturing methods you can turn to make a new unique part. However, both methods have different demands. 

This article explains the difference between CNC machines and 3D Printers, two common manufacturing processes. 

What is CNC Machining?

CNC Machining or Computer Numerical Control is a popular type of subtractive manufacturing. It is a rapid manufacturing process used to turn digital 3D designs into metal or plastic parts by cutting away materials. 

A lot of companies prefer the CNC Machining service since it is possible to make prototypes and parts. Also, a lot of companies use multipurpose technology. 

The process is used to produce various strong parts and have specific dimensions. CNC Machining services are popular in various sectors such as airplane machinery, engines, and many other fields. 

CNC Machining is a unique method that guides a machine through a programmed computer instead of manual control. However, the process is very different from 3D Printing. CNC Machining is used to produce mass pieces or when you need to meet particular requirements. 

What are the essential CNC Machining services?

CNC Machining is a speedy manufacturing process that comes in different forms. Even though most technologies follow the same procedure, the hardware that cuts the materials can differ.

CNC Machining vs 3D Printer

CNC Machining Services

Thus, there are various CNC Machining services to consider. Some of the main CNC Machining services to consider are:

CNC Machine Milling

CNC Machine Milling is one of the most popular CNC Machining services. It is used to make a wide range of machine parts. The CNC mills use computer instructions to create parts in different shapes and sizes. 

CNC Machine Turning

CNC Machine Turning is a machining service used to create rounded, cylindrical, and pointed parts. It is another popular CNC Machining service since it offers numerous advantages to prototype companies and manufacturers. 

CNC Screw Machining

CNC Screw Machining is a CNC Machining service used to produce high-dimensional parts. It produces complex parts used in various sectors such as electronics, medical devices, cars, and trucks. 

What is a 3D Printer?

3D Printer is a manufacturing process used to create a 3-dimensional object using computer programs. Also known as the addictive process, 3D Printing creates shoe designs, jewelry, gifts, toys, and other objects. 

3D printers are used in the medical field to create implants, organs, and prosthetics. They are also used in the food industry, manufacturing, and many other areas. 

What are the fundamental similarities of CNC Machining vs 3D Printing?

Even though CNC Machining and 3D Printer are two different methods, they have a few things in common.

Some of the similarities between the two include:

  • Both produce 3D objects based on 3D models
  • Both CNC Machining and 3D Printer follow instructions from a computer. 
  • They are the standard methods used to produce 3D products. 
  • Both are compatible with OBJ and STL file types. 

Nevertheless, CNC Machining and 3D printers are different methods that offer different benefits. 

What are the key differences between CNC Machining and 3D Printing?

We discussed the basic differences between CNC machining and 3D printing here.

1. Speed

One significant difference between the two methods is speed. If you want one for large-scale production, the best one to consider is CNC Machining. CNC Machining is faster because it involves a get-together of machines that produce specific parts. 

But 3D Printers are slow and cannot mass produce a product. One single 3D Printer makes the whole product from the beginning to the end. Thus, it is suitable for small-scale production.

2. Quality

Another difference is the quality of products produced. CNC Machining is known for producing products with a more refined look. It is scarce for the materials to get distorted during manufacturing. 

But with 3D printers, some parts tend to warp or bend. Also, layers lines are visible, particularly around the curves. Even though most 3D printers promise a high degree of accuracy, they fail most of the time. 

3. File Types

Although both CNC Machining and 3D Printing are compatible with OBJ and STL file types, they both use other various file types that are not well-matched with each other. 

4. Wastefulness

Another significant difference between CNC Machining and 3D Printer is the amount of waste they produce.

Since CNC machining takes away material, it produces a lot of waste. But 3D printers only use the exact amount required. Thus, it produces less waste. 

5. Size of parts

When using CNC Machines, it is possible to make different sizes. Whether you want to make delicate or tiny parts, it is possible with CNC milling.

However, it is impossible to make parts more extensive than the printing bed with 3D printers. 

6. Production

When it comes to production, CNC machining is more accurate. It provides accuracy to the nearby micrometer. It is because the machines have a higher heat tolerance.

On the other hand, 3D printers are far from producing such accuracy.  

7. Material availability

When using CNC Machining, you can work with various materials. You can use wood, metal alloys, modeling foam, acrylics, wax, and thermoplastics.

Also, CNC machines can quickly adapt to new materials. But 3D Printers work with a limited number of materials.  

What are the benefits of CNC Machining over 3D Printing?

CNC Machining is an advanced technology that comes with various machining services. On the other hand, 3D Printing is a newer technology with a few benefits.

Here are some of the benefits of CNC Machining over 3D Printing. 

1. Speed – if you want quality products faster, the best option is CNC machines. The machine is capable of producing high-quality large-scale products. 

2. Cost – another advantage of CNC machining over 3D printers is the cost of production. It is cheaper to produce many products with CNC machining. 

3. Strength – CNC machining can make vital parts for aeroplanes, cars, and truck engines. 

4. Variety – CNC machining makes it possible to make any product with any material. In addition, you can have any size you want. 

5. Consistency – due to a high degree of accuracy when using CNC machines, making the parts the same way each time is possible. 

6. Quality – CNC machining makes parts of high quality that 3D printers cannot match. 


Now you know the differences between CNC machining services and 3D Printing. CNC Machining is considered by many since it is cheaper, produces high-quality parts, and it is a faster method for creating various parts. 

On the other hand, 3D Printing is applied when methods such as CNC are impossible to use, or materials such as alloy containing hard metals cannot be easily machined. 

So, now you know the best option to consider when creating various parts—considering various factors such as cost, wastage, speed, post-processing, and materials used.

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