Even with the advances in 3D printing, CNC machining remains the most cost-effective method of on-demand manufacturing. For owning and running the machines, CNC and industrial 3D printers are comparable in cost. CNC has higher operator wages, but 3D printers have costs associated with the risk of print failure. Material costs are lower for CNC, even allowing for higher waste due to its subtractive process. 3D printing also brings higher engineering and design costs, and requires more post-processing labor. All told, CNC represents a very accessible option, especially when working with metal. 3D printing has its own advantages, however, such as when producing low volumes or one-offs.
- 3-D printing makes the production of custom parts significantly more accessible and cheap.
- Paying a CNC machinist can cost $40/hr, while renting a 3-D printer costs less than half the price.
- 3-D printing has more risk-related operational cost than traditional methods.
“3D printing or additive manufacturing is another digital manufacturing technology that can produce parts on-demand.”