The Joining of Two Industries: Milling and 3D printing

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3D printing and Milling accomplish the same things: creating a part from a base material – except they work in completely opposite ways. While you likely understand the basic concepts of each, combining the two is proving to be highly beneficial to each side.

In a more traditional sense, 3D printing and milling work together by each coming into play at different stages in the prototyping process. Additive manufacturing can be used to iterate designs, then once the intended design is found, CNC milling can be used to complete the final part. These aspects of industries merging were to be expected. After all, 3D printing brought about a significant ability to create physical parts without the cost and time required with CNC. The unexpecting merging of the industries is where engineering gets a little more fun.

There are many options for the maker or machinist to purchase a machine that can do both 3D printing and CNC milling. BoXZY is perhaps one of the most well-designed options for a desktop model, but even those with large CNC machines now have options for interchangeable 3D printer heads.

All of this begs the question, are parts that are both milled and printed a possibility? And if so, what application can we see this combined process as the industry progresses?

I looked into the application of hybrid manufacturing in a recent post where I discovered that the future of these two combined techniques could yield parts with machined quality at the speed of additive manufacturing. In an application such as this, base metal is laid down through fused deposition modeling then CNC-esque tools are used to give the part a surface finish more in line with production-ready designs.

Applications like mentioned above are growing. CNC machines and 3D printers are being combined to create large singular source manufacturing machines. 3DPrint.com mentions one CNC shop that uses a 5-axis CNC machine that is also a 3D printer. You can see this mesmerizing machine in action in the video below.

For this specific machine, the company sees its future in the medical and prosthetics industry where high precision lightweight plastic parts are needed. So, the answer seems to be that milled and machined parts are definitely a possibility and their applications seem to be diverse as well. Wherever there is a need for high precision, well-machined lightweight parts, there can be an application for 3D printing AND CNC machining together.

Image Source: [1] 

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