The answer is 3D printing will not replace CNC machining in the foreseeable future.
The reason is they actually have different purposes which complement each other.
3D printing is a form of add-on or additive manufacturing.
It makes use of parts being produced layer by layer with substances such as plastic or metal powders, plastic filaments or resins.
Its energy source is either a laser or a heated extruder which creates decks or layers of these materials by solidifying them to finally form the finished part.
The joy of 3D printing is in your ability to create freedom of shape, its accuracy, speed, and its ability to cut on costs and to decrease the weight of certain parts.
It is also applicable in several industries.
3D printing has various advantages over traditional printing but its technology has not yet been developed for mass production.
CNC machining represents subtractive manufacturing.
Theoretically: this means to deduct from an original piece.
The process starts with a block of material (called a blank);
CNC machining starts to cut away material until the finished part is created.
Cutters and spinning tools are important parts of the procedure to shape and mold the original piece.
Somewhat like sculpture or pottery.
It works well with many materials including wood, metals, and plastics.
CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control.
WHAT 3D PRINTING AND CNC MACHINING HAVE IN COMMON?
Both are compatible with a wide variety of materials.
These include plastics and metals.
3D printing Is more adaptable to plastics like ABS, nylon, polycarbonate. and acrylic for now;
but some companies have sought to introduce technology that will allow more usage of metals in 3D printing.
Some advanced 3D printers have the capacity for jobs on sand and ceramics.
CNC machining is more in tune with metals;
especially aluminum, stainless steel and titanium,
but companies have also sought the adaptability of plastics to CNC machining.
3D PRINTING AND CNC MACHINING WORK TOGETHER
There are materials such as super alloys or TPU (flexible material) which cannot be made with CNC machining
but should be created with 3D printing.
After the super alloy has been produced, the deductive or sculpting magic of CNC will then work its way through the material.
CAN WE COMBINE THE TWO?
There are companies now that are attempting to merge the great qualities of 3D printing and CNC machining into one dual purpose
The Zmorph 2.0 SX is introduced as a CNC equipment but is also a 3D printer.
It has 3 axes and a print head because of its interchangeable heads.
Then there is Mooz which is marketed as a 3 in 1 3D printer.
3D printing is simpler.
No operator is required when the file is prepared, and the part orientation, fill and supports are executed.
CNC machining needs a skilled machinist to choose usage of tools.
cutting path, and repositioning of the material.
CNC machining requires cleanup after use because it cuts and sculpts away from the material until the desired form is established.
Whereas 3D printing doesn’t leave any mess behind because all the parts created are needed because they are all new productions.
Both 3D printing and CNC machining will be here to stay.
The former is in the creation of new products (additive property);
while the latter is in the creation of something out of something.
3D printing is more proficient with plastics. sand and ceramics while CNC machining does wonders with both stainless steel or metals.
Technology will keep in evolving until the two technologies will be merged and they will be adaptable to mass production.
The two processes now are just confined to low and mid production projects.
But the future of 3D printing is much brighter because costs from its operations have become even cheaper than third world cheap labor.
And the expenses keep decreasing with the potential of a 3D printer in most homes in the not so distant future.
3D printing can also make the costs of commercial goods much cheaper because it can create duplicates of these products.
Thus, it has become competition.