In a provocatively named article, author James Brumley suggested that “3D Printing Came and Went, While CNC Simply Got Better.” He goes on to say that 3D Systems and Stratasys were no more than flashes in the pan, novelty driven companies that got their 15 minutes of fame, but whose presence is already turning sour. His argument is that instead of those companies, we all should really be paying attention to companies such as Bulova Technologies Group which is introducing the latest and greatest in CNC technology:
“3D printing has most definitely not displaced CNC (computer numerical control) equipment as the most effective means of turning a hunk of metal into something useful by cutting it into a specific shape. Indeed, if anything, the advent of 3D printing has underscored just how impressive current CNC machines are.”
For obvious reasons, this caught the attention of the editors here at 3DPrint.com, because we’re not necessarily in complete agreement with his analysis…otherwise, we’d be named something like AwesomeCNC.com. This is not to suggest that he is hyping a worthless technology — quite the opposite in fact — but rather that the more likely explanation is that it’s not an either/or situation. The embrace of the magic of CNC doesn’t mean that we have to wholesale reject the possibilities presented by 3D printing, throwing out the proverbial baby with the bath water.
If you read beyond the headline, and we certainly can’t fault him for having come up with a catchy headline, Brumley does acknowledge that really he is talking about a specific area in 3D printing. After all, nobody is arguing that we should be milling replacement organs or that the CNC will be the machine of choice in the future for making customizable dolls like the Makies. In his piece, he elaborated on his idea about CNC machines as set apart from 3D printers:
“[T]here are 3D printers that can cut most types of metal, starting with a solid block and then stripping away the material that isn’t part of the intended shape. Here’s a little detail about metal-forming 3D printers though…most of them are actually CNC machines that are called something else. They’re also priced like their CNC brethren, ergo offering no cost or functionality advantage.”
Herein lies the heart of his invective against 3D printers: some of them aren’t actually 3D printers but rather CNC machines. It seems a bit rash to announce, therefore, the end of 3D printing as a result of the failure of machines that aren’t 3D printers to supersede the machines types that they actually already are. Perhaps drama has gotten the better part of clarity here.
In other words, in my humble opinion – probably shared by many members of the 3D printing community – the rumors of the death of 3D printing are greatly exaggerated. Do you agree with Brumley? Let us know in the CNC Vs. 3D Printing forum on 3DPB.com.
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