CNC Milling vs. Additive Manufacturing: What You Need to Know


The number one question we hear at Fabrisonic is “We are currently CNC milling this part. How much cheaper can you print it?”

The short answer that immediately comes out as, “If you can CNC mill it, for the love of God please CNC mill it.”

Why You (Typically) Can’t 3D Print a Traditionally CNC Milled Part Cheaper

While the price question occasionally frustrates the Fabrisonic staff, it is a great opportunity to educate customers metal 3D printing.  If you think about it, a part that has been CNC milled for the last ten years was most likely designed with CNC milling in mind.  Thus, all of the dimensions, shapes, features, etc., have been optimized to increase the efficiency of producing that part on a CNC mill.

Extending this thread to other manufacturing processes, if a part has historically been a weldment, then it stands to reason that the design has been optimized specifically for a sheet cut/bend/weld process. In the majority of cases, 3D printing is not a panacea that automatically lowers cost of existing parts.


When to Utilize Additive Manufacturing

Game-changing 3D printing applications come when designers throw away the rule book. Rebel designers abandon traditional manufacturing constraints and envision designs for previously ‘impossible’ parts that have features never imagined were possible.  Fabrisonic’s patented 3D printing process, Ultrasonic Additive Manufacturing (UAM), is a revolutionary process technology that uses sound to merge layers of metal drawn from featureless foil stock. The process produces true metallurgical bonds with full density and works with a variety of metals. Some unique advantages of UAM are as follows:

  • Welds metals without changing their metallurgic properties
  • Creates complex internal geometry within a single part
  • Embeds electronics without damage or overheating
  • Joins multiple metals into one part (Aluminium, Steel, Copper, etc.)

Click here to download our design guide which delves deeper into our process and also, answers our most frequently asked questions.

The patented technology has several unique capabilities impossible with traditional manufacturing. We find the easiest way to facilitate the 3D printing design process is for Fabrisonic employees to engage with designers. It is extremely valuable having a process expert and design expert in the same room, so the team can quickly learn each other’s constraints and drivers.

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The key to success with 3D printing is to design parts with 3D printing in mind.  Just like any other manufacturing process, if we want to 3D print the part, we need to optimize the part for 3D printing.  That means considering the strengths of the process, such as geometric freedom, embedded electronics, and multi-material capabilities. Have an additional question about how UAM could improve your process? Click the button below to Get Started with Fabrisonic and our team will be in contact with you soon.

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