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Prototyping Truths

Additive manufacturing has its place, but CNC machining will continue to be used for prototyping work by shops that see value in offering such a service.

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Surely you’ve noticed that Modern Machine Shop covers additive manufacturing from time to time. In fact, we do in April’s cover story. The story explains how additive manufacturing using a new laser sintering process may soon enable a Nebraska structural composites company carve out a niche creating aircraft ducting from high-temperature plastics.
 
Such CAD-to-component technologies have proven valuable for rapid prototyping purposes and may soon be used in more production applications, as that story suggests. With that said, there are two truths about additive manufacturing as it will be applied in machine shops.
 
Truth 1: Additive manufacturing will never completely replace CNC machining.
 
Truth 2: CNC machining will remain the best, if not the only, alternative for a number of rapid prototyping applications.