Is Machining Better Than Using a 3D Printer?

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Is Machining Better Than Using a 3D Printer?

17 May 2016
 Categories: , Blog

Do you have heavy equipment that has components that no longer work properly? You can have those parts restored to their functional state by having them machined or having them fabricated using a 3D printer. This article compares those two processes of machine restoration. Use this information to help you to make an informed decision about the most appropriate way to restore your equipment parts to a functional condition.

What They Are

Machining refers to the process of forming a desired part, shape or surface finish by carefully cutting off layers of material from a raw material or a defective part. This process can be conducted manually, or by the use of computer numeric control (CNC) machines.

3D printing refers to the fabrication of a machine component from scratch. The component is made by adding several thin layers of material in order to reproduce a digital model of that desired component. This approach is highly automated.

Material Selection

The type of material from which you would like the components to be made can help you to pick a fabrication method. Machining offers a wider selection of materials when compared to 3D printing. This is because it is easier to remove progressive layers of a material as compared to adding layers to an existing part. For instance, metals can be ground during the machining process in order to get a part with the exact dimensions that you want a component to have. However, a 3D printer may need to use the molten form of the metal in order to keep adding layers to a part under fabrication. This imposes an added cost of keeping the part very hot so that it can fuse with the added layers.


3D printing has the edge when complex corners and undercuts are desired in a machine component. This is because the automated cutting systems of 3D printers can make those cuts in a way that would be very difficult for the machining process to achieve due to accessibility challenges.

Tolerances or Surface Finishes

Machining can produce components with very tight tolerances in a way that 3D printing may not be able to. 3D printing may be better suited to round or bevel shapes. Machining relies on a variety of tools, as well as on the skill of the operator, in order to achieve the production of machine components with very tight tolerances and surface finishes.

Think about the parts that you would like to fabricate in terms of the variables above. Select the most appropriate fabrication method for your needs. You can also consult heavy machiningmach professionals for extra help in choosing the best fabrication method for your equipment parts.