Additive or subtractive manufacturing: what if you didn’t have to choose?

Here’s a manufacturing conundrum:

What if you need to produce a part with tight geometric tolerances but have little lead time to spare? How do you build a 3D printed part and achieve tight tolerances at the same time? 

Some would say you need to machine the part, potentially sacrificing some material or geometric properties to save on processing time. Others would say to go with 3D printing and try to adjust the design, so the tolerances aren’t an issue.

But at Polyhistor International, we see a third option: bring the best of both worlds together by leveraging hybrid manufacturing. 

Can Additive and Subtractive Manufacturing Really Work Together?

In certain situations, additive and subtractive manufacturing are complementary capabilities. In some additive manufacturing processes, post-machining is needed to perfect the part. 3D printing has some limitations (like achieving tight tolerances) that CNC machining can help resolve. 

On the other hand, design for CNC machining is governed by certain limitations of the machining process itself. 3D printing allows for greater flexibility and freedom of design.

When Should You Use Hybrid Manufacturing?

There are two ways to approach hybrid manufacturing: 

  • 3D print the part and machine it afterward as a secondary operation
  • Stop a 3D printing process midstream, insert metal parts, then resume printing

Here are some common applications for hybrid manufacturing:

  •  3D print with tight tolerance needs. 3D printing doesn’t generally have tight tolerance capabilities, but post-machining can offer the precision needed to achieve the appropriate tolerances.
  • Printing with a standard hex nut. If you need more pullout strange and torque resistance than a regular heat set insert can provide, we are able to stop the 3D printing process and insert regular off the shelf hex nuts and then resume printing. 
  • Added features for a 3D printed part. We recently had a client who needed a magnet inserted right below the surface of their 3D printed part. Thanks to our ability to stop the 3D printing process midstream, we were able to make that happen for them.
  • Increasing pullout strength. If a 3D printed part isn’t strong enough to hold a heat set insert, we can insert a metal structure directly into the part for better pullout strength.

Hybrid Manufacturing with Polyhistor

If you’re unsure about whether or not your design allows for a hybrid approach, don’t hesitate to give us a call. As a product development and engineering design firm, we can help you design with this capability in mind.  

Many 3D printing service bureaus don’t have machining capabilities, and they aren’t willing to interrupt their 3D printing process to add machined and/or off the shelf hardware—but Polyhistor does and is! So contact us today.