When 3D printing was brought to life in the 1980s (yes that long ago!), it was looked upon with marvel – used only by state of the art engineering laboratories. At this point, this additive manufacturing __ was still in its infancy with a way to go I terms of applicable abilities. By the 1990s, however, 3D printing was beginning to penetrate the medical world, making waves with custom medical apparatus. In the subsequent decade, 3D printing started to become more widely available and was beginning to be anointed the ‘next big thing’ in manufacturing and was creeping into the homes of entrepreneurs and hobbyists.
3D printing is an additive manufacturing style, which works by putting down layer upon layer of a material until the desired shape is created. The material will usually start off as a powder which is pushed through a small nozzle with an extruder, or as a liquid which is solidified with the help of a laser. The layout for the desired shape are created using CAD (computer aided drawing) software, and then sent to the printer which then automatically programmes in the steps needed to create the desired results. Materials often used in 3D printing include:
- Carbon fibre
CNC (computer numerical control) machining can be traced back to the industrial revolution. The influx of production demand significantly outweighed the capabilities of manually managed machines, therefore inducing a substantial manufacturing evolution. But, before CNC machining, there was NC machining. Invented by John T. Parsons in the 1940s, NC machining was initially contracted by the US Air Force to aid the creation of intricate geometrical aircraft parts.
Fast-forward to today and CNC machines are used for a plethora of functions and are responsible for the creation of the majority of mass produced merchandise in a wide range of industries due to their versatility. Much like 3D printers, CNC machines carry out designs which have been programmed into a computer using CAD software. However, to conceive the desired model, CNC machines remove parts of the material in question to shape it into the required design. The exact techniques vary from machine to machine but the overall method is to cut/drill/etch/engrave from a 3D or 2D material. Materials used in CNC machining include:
- Nylon 6
To summarise, both are effective machining methods which multiple similarities, such as the programming methods and the materials they employ. However, when it comes to substantial scale and dimensional accuracy – CNC machining is the way forward.