How Long Does 3D Printing take vs CNC Machining

Mosi Li
Mosi Li

Director Project Engineer at 3Q Machining - China top CNC Machining Custom Part Manufacturer

How Long Does 3D Printing take for plastic part

How long does 3D printing take?

3D printing is a form of add-on or additive manufacturing technique which is totally different from CNC Machining (a reduce material manufacturing technique).

It makes custom parts being produced layer by layer with substances such as plastic or metal powders, plastic filaments or resins.

Its energy source is either a laser or a heated extruder which creates decks or layers of these materials by solidifying them to finally form the finished part.

The joy of 3D printing is in your ability to create freedom of shape, its accuracy, speed, and its ability to cut on costs and to decrease the weight of certain parts.

When you want to create a product part with 3D Printing, you must want to know hot long does it take to finish it, 3D printing a custom part can take from 10 mins to 10 days more based on your design drawing and part materials, let’s have a close look at the 3D printing to find out the major elements (including of part size, part complexity, layout, layer thickness) to affect the timing to do a project with 3D Printing,  you can find out it would be easily accessible than you may think. 

01. Part size

Bigger size part means more material and need more time to do printing by 3D Printer. For example, if your 3D printer can print each layer with 25μm and takes 20s for each layer, then you can calculate the whole time it would take to finish 3D printing.

02. Part structure complexity

More complex structure part means its whole area & volume is bigger than a simple structure part even their whole size is same, that means a complex structure design part would take longer time to do 3D printing

Cylinder 3D Printing
Gear 3D Printing

For example, although a cylinder part has more material than a gear part when the whole size is same, but the gear part takes 27% more time to do 3D printing.

03.Layout support materials

Adding support material to your part can affect its printing time more than any other factor. Since our support material is composed of long and slow printing line tracks, adding support material is tantamount to adding a large amount of printing area. Although the supporting material is an essential element, you can also take some measures to reduce the time cost caused by this.

1. Try to adjust the orientation of the part: Usually, changing the orientation of the part can completely change the entire 3D Printing time. A good example is a ski knee pad printed by a member of our team a few weeks ago. In one direction, the huge volume of the housing requires a lot of support structure, which will take 13 days to print. By reversing the printing of the parts, this will shorten the printing time by 11 days.

Layout support materials for 3D printing
Layout support material for 3D printing

(By re-adjusting the placement direction of the parts, we can reduce 11 days printing time and nearly 500 cubic centimetre of materials)


2. Restrict cantilever structure: If the part structure allows, you can print more quickly without adding supporting materials. When it is turned on, our algorithm supports the drape printing of Onyx material above 45 degrees vertically (30 degrees for nylon material). If you have more overhanging areas that cannot be changed (supporting materials are required), please make sure that your non-critical cantilevers do not exceed these values. This will effectively reduce the amount of support material and save your printing time on other cantilever structures. If you don’t have any overhangs that need supporting material, close the support and limit the angle of Onyx to 55 degrees (45 degrees nylon). The part will print well and save you a lot of time.

3. Consider the design of the printing surface: In order to manage which cantilever structures require support (and which do not require support), please figure out the direction in which the part should be printed before designing the part. This will enable the parts you design to be better finalized by 3D printing technology, rather than changing the style of the parts to suit the printer. Although it may not save printing time, it will save part design time.

4. Split parts: Sometimes, parts are too complicated to eliminate support structure changes. In this case, there is still a choice. By splitting the part into two or more parts, you can more easily reduce the support structure. After the parts are printed, you can use Loctite 401 adhesive to glue them together to obtain the final complete part.

04. Layer thickness

This is a classic analysis point of FDM technology printing: layer resolution and printing time. Our default 100-micron layer resolution can produce high-quality surface finishes. Increasing the layer height to 200 microns will sacrifice a little surface quality, but at the same time can reduce the printing time by half. This is very useful for temporary emergency and plastic-only 3D printing projects (printing with optical fiber requires a fixed layer height of 100 or 125 microns), because your part can be printed with two parts in the original time. Please refer to the table below for the estimated time of the previously analyzed gears under different layer height settings.

                                                     (The inverse relationship between time and floor height)

3D printing

How Long Does 3D Printing take vs CNC Machining

The 3D Printing time based on your part design complexity, part size, and the printing machinery & method, when compare with the timing between 3D Printing and CNC Machining (cnc machining is a manufacturing technique for removing material. It uses sharp cutting tools, available in a variety of shapes and sizes, which are precisely controlled by a computer. CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control.), the advantage for 3D Printing is: only printing geometry can benefit from 3D printing technology, do not print shafts or other simple low value parts, because it will only increase the cost and timing for 3D Printing.

To find out the best saving time on 3D Printing parts is an unpredictable art: it varies greatly on a part basis and does not always work as you expect. However, if you follow the above knowledge, you can find a way to shorten the printing time in most cases.

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