How Additive Manufacturing Supports Subtractive Manufacturing

Manufacturing has experienced remarkable advancements in recent years, notably with the rise of additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing. This transformative technology has revolutionized traditional manufacturing by enabling the creation of complex and customized parts with unprecedented speed and precision.

Unlike subtractive methods, which remove material with CNC machining, additive manufacturing allows for the layer-by-layer construction of objects using plastics, metals, ceramics, and biological materials.

This article will explore how additive manufacturing processes complement CNC machining by offering several cost-effective benefits, including waste reduction, rapid product development, and more options to create complex shapes.

The Synergy of Additive and Subtractive Manufacturing

Using additive manufacturing methods for rapid prototyping offers numerous benefits that improve CNC machining. For instance, it accelerates product development, reduces costs, validates designs, and enables functional testing. As a result, it leads to better-quality products brought to market more efficiently.

By leveraging the strengths of additive and subtractive methods in a complementary way, manufacturers can optimize design-to-production, reduce time-to-market, lower production costs, improve product quality, and stay competitive in changing markets.

Additive manufacturing provides design flexibility, rapid prototyping, and material efficiency. The subtractive process is known for precision, excellent surface finishes, scalability for mass production, and post-processing capabilities.

Enhancing CNC Capabilities with Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing enhances the preparation and finishing phases of CNC machining projects. For example, it can produce complex, custom jigs and fixtures quickly and cost-effectively, expediting the setup time for machining and allowing for precise tooling to improve the overall machining accuracy.

Ben Machine currently uses a process called stereolithography to produce precision castings. This technology, a type of 3D printing, generates part molds. Although the mold varies more than traditional tooling, the lead time is significantly reduced, and tooling costs are eliminated.

If a customer needs tight tolerances, Ben Machine will supply a fully machined investment-cast part that meets the close-tolerance requirements.

The Role of Additive Manufacturing in Complex Parts Production

Additive manufacturing enables manufacturers to create complex, intricate parts layer by layer from a digital model. This technology gives product designers the freedom to produce shapes and internal structures that would be challenging or impossible to achieve through traditional manufacturing methods. After forming these components, companies can use CNC machining to refine the components to precise tolerances.

The synergy of additive manufacturing’s flexibility in design with the precision finishing capabilities of CNC machining presents a powerful combination for producing parts with complex geometries, high strength, and exacting specifications.

Cost-Effectiveness and Waste Reduction

When additive and subtractive manufacturing come together, they complement each other’s strengths and mitigate weaknesses. This hybrid approach can lead to both financial and environmental benefits. The 3D printer adds material layer by layer and only uses what is needed to create the part, which can significantly reduce material waste.

With small production runs, the tooling costs in traditional manufacturing can be prohibitive. Additive manufacturing can create complex geometries without expensive molds or tooling, and CNC machining can finish critical surfaces to meet tolerance requirements while ensuring the durability and finish of the final product.

Using additive manufacturing to create complex parts is typically quicker than traditional methods, especially when combined with high-speed CNC machining for excellent surface finishes. This technique can reduce labor costs and increase throughput.

Future Outlook and Technological Integration

The convergence of traditional CNC machining with additive manufacturing technologies marks a significant evolution in the manufacturing sector. This trend allows CNC shops to extend their capabilities beyond subtractive techniques to include additive manufacturing’s layer-by-layer construction process.

This integration broadens the range of possible geometries and materials and opens up opportunities for rapid prototyping, custom manufacturing, and complex part production with reduced waste. Consequently, more shops will follow the lead of Ben Machine, adopting this integrated approach and positioning their organizations to meet the increasing demand for high-complexity components, giving them a competitive edge in the fast-evolving manufacturing landscape.