The always knowledgeable Chris Gammell (of The Amp Hour fame) pointed me to one of the best CNC and mold making resources I’ve ever seen online, and while this may be old news to some people there’s an incredible collection of advice holed up in this
article book: The Guerilla Guide to CNC Machining, Mold Making and Resin Casting by Michal Zalewski. If you’ve ever wondered how you can use a CNC mill to make custom gears, or just what the limits of a CNC mill are, this is probably the best online resource you’re likely to come across (note: feel free to prove me wrong in the comments below!).
I’ve been on the fence for years between buying a mid-range 3D printer or a mid-range CNC mill. They’re different solutions to (in my case) similar problems, but their respective advantages and disadvantages come close to cancelling each other out, which is why I still haven’t taken the plunge on either. My only interest is create prototypes of enclosures, or small mechanical parts like gears, and molds for silicon keypads or resin prototype parts, etc. A CNC mill is more flexible since a mid-range mill can also cut soft metals, and has a better finish than many affordable 3D printers, but you’re also more limited with the shape of the interior area compared to 3D printing.
If anyone out there has anything to contribute on the debate (in my head) between 3D printers and CNC mills, my guess is I’m not the only ‘maker’ in this same boat … where finish quality and price are important and it’s probably not realistic to just ‘buy both’. Feel free to chime in below with your own thoughts and experience!