Comparing Additive to Subtractive Manufacturing Part 1

Posted by Brad Roberson in CNC Machining and Manufacturing on Jan 10, 2022.

Your business often has the choice between subtractive manufacturing, otherwise known as Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining, and additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. Each method has its own advantages, but Roberson Machine Company specializes in CNC machining and subtractive manufacturing.

Get a quote for your next manufacturing or prototyping project now. Contact us for a free quote or give us a call at 573-646-3996. We have over 20 years and counting of CNC machining and subtractive manufacturing experience.

What is Subtractive Manufacturing?

Much like the name suggests, subtractive manufacturing is the process of removing material from a part, product or workpiece. Three-dimensional objects are constructed and/or prototyped by removing material from a larger piece of material. Taking advantage of modern CNC machines and technologies, this is the most popular method of manufacturing parts.

Common Types of Subtractive Manufacturing:

  1. Milling
  2. CNC Milling machines are built for precision manufacturing and consistency, making them ideal for rapid prototyping and production. The machines are mainly used to cut harder metals, but can work with softer workpiece materials ranging from plastic and aluminum to stainless steel and titanium. These milling machines can be tuned with higher degrees of freedom than most machines. More freedom allows the machine to form more complex features. Our milling machines are ideal for multi-featured, flat-faced parts.

  3. Turning
  4. CNC Turning is done on a lathe. A CNC Lathe is normally used to perform/produce precise round shapes with both an outer diameter and an inner diameter. A simple CNC Lathe operates on two axes and the tool is located in a fixed position at 8 to 24 station turret. The rotating action of the part is called “turning”, hence certain types of CNC Lathes are called CNC Turning machines. Extremely accurate, CNC Turning can be used to turn out thousands of components that are each identical. With minimal opportunity for human error, the CNC services we offer yield impeccable results, even for the project with the most stringent and demanding specifications.

  5. Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM)
  6. EDM is an advanced technique that uses an electrode to erode or cut material from the part without ever touching it. This process is also referred to as spark erosion. The cutting or erosion tool can also be a wire, with the ability to cut any conductive metal.

  7. Multi-Axis Machining
  8. Multi-Axis Machining allows for the creation of incredibly complex shapes. Roberson Machine Company utilizes 5-axis CNC machining by supplementing the standard 3-axis machine with two more, rotary axes. With so many directions of work achievable, it’s possible to create demanding shapes with incredible detail in a relatively short amount of time. By cutting along a number of different axes, it’s possible to create complex components and ensure that they’re produced to exactly the right dimensions. Our advanced equipment can machine with incredible accuracy, completing demanding jobs effortlessly. Whether you need an initial prototype or need a run of components that consistently meet the highest standard of excellence, we can deliver.

Advantages of Subtractive Manufacturing:

  • Wide variety of materials can be processed
  • Good dimensional control and surface finish; large sized objects can be fabricated
  • Processes are faster, more accurate; high degree of consistent repeatability

In comparison to subtractive manufacturing, which dates back to the Ancient Egyptian civilization, additive manufacturing is a relatively new process that might be fairly useful for prototyping, but is not fast or affordable enough and, therefore, not yet viable for mass production. 3D printing does not have the capacity to support long production runs at the same facility or at practical production costs. The finished part in subtractive manufacturing has a solid composition, as opposed to additive’s layered composition. Subtractive and CNC prototyping is ideal for product testing because of its high structural integrity, allowing an accurate analysis of the part’s durability and viability due to it being made from the same material that will be used to manufacture it.

Whether you need a small component or a larger part, nothing is too complicated or too complex for our experienced team and our state-of-the-art facility. If you are ready to start your prototyping project, CNC machining is the way to go. Roberson Machine Company is the driving force — the way to get there. To find out more about our subtractive manufacturing and CNC machining systems or to request a quote, call us today at 573-646-3996.

Click here for Part 2 of this blog.


Brad Roberson / 

Brad Roberson is one of the owners of Roberson Machine Company. Please feel free to contact us to receive a quote or ask any questions you may have.

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