Let’s start the article by breaking one of the first basic myths about CNC rapid prototyping i.e. you don’t necessarily need a CNC machine for it. So what exactly is CNC rapid prototyping? We will let you know by this article.
One thing most of you reading this would know and that is, it has got something to do with hardware. It is the hardware industry that is currently getting more and more players in the market and has a good number of innovations in it, also new products and the credit to this extremely mobile market can be given to rapid prototyping.
The process of creating working prototypes from 3D models is called rapid prototyping. It has been possible due to technologies like 3D printing as well as CNC machining that we can transform ideas into realities, without compromising much.
Also, these products or prototypes are a lot simpler in developing and affordable. As good as news this turned out to be for big manufacturers, customers of whom also complained about the quality and price before, so good it turned out to be for small business owners.
Any big or small idea can be manifested into a brilliant product idea and take some of the other mature states. Due to the very flexible business model, small business owners can combine with big manufacturers and offer their services.
But before one gets to the production stage, he or she needs to create a prototype for fabrication and other steps. Below mentioned is everything that you need to know about prototyping. Excited?
Why you Do not Need a CNC Machine for CNC Rapid Prototyping?
Before understanding why do you not need a CNC machine, we would like to tell, what are CNC machines? They are machines capable of working with various materials like stainless steel, wood, aluminum, etc. and create shapes as well as complex designs.
Because these types of services are now offered online, you do not necessarily need a CNC machine at your place to develop a rapid prototype. Look for services online, for manufacturing various parts and shapes. Figure out which one suits you the best and compare prices.
All that this online service demands from you is the design. For the matter of convenience, they also allow you to send the design in various formats. There are also some service providers available online which can convert your format into the format that the CNC machine understands for CNC prototyping.
So all you need to do is get you CAD or two-dimensional file which has the design of the product you wish to prototype and that’s it. Submit it to the online CNC machine service provider along with specifications. And you will receive a finished product at the delivery address that you choose.
One thing to note here is that these services are accessible to everyone. Not only do you get assistance for developing a product after developing your CAD file or design file, but also you can get assistance for developing the design file.
If possible the online service providers would provide an alternative simple route that would require lesser technical knowledge than otherwise. So, you see you do not generally require CNC machines for CNC rapid prototyping. How cool is that? Also, the design files for basic prototypes are available online, some for free, some costing affordable rates.
So, you can get design files by searching online and if all goes well, you can download it and send it to the CNC rapid prototyping service provider online.
How does this work?
Not just this, but any machining, in general, is known to transform a general raw material into a finished product by the means of the material removal process.
Similar to those machining, there are prototype development technologies like FDM 3D printing that relies on the instructions given to machines by a Computer-Aided Design file like the one which we develop on Solidworks 3D.
The CNC machine that we have in front of us interprets or in other ways decodes that design file and gets the instructions for cutting prototype parts.
There are also times wherein the machining processes require using more than one tool for making the desired cuts. In such cases, CNC machines commonly combine tools into common units or cells from which the machine can draw them in.
When it comes to basic machines, they move in one or two axes while the more advanced machines move laterally in the x, y-axis, as well as longitudinally in the z-axis. If you are very lucky you get a machine that also has the capability to rotate on about one or more axes.
These multi-axis machines are capable of flipping parts over automatically, allowing you to remove material that was otherwise underneath. Such type of machines even eliminates the need for workers to flip the prototype stock material and gives complete freedom.
They also allow you to cut all sides without the need for manual intervention, increasing the overall efficiency. You get fully automated cuts that are known to be generally more accurate than what is possible with manual inputs.
However, there are times when finishing work like etching is better accomplished by hand as well as simple cuts that would require extensive design work to program the machine for automation.
Basics about CNC Prototype Machining
As we have been talking about in this article, CNC prototyping involves the utilization of 3D solid model CAD designs as the input. Then the machine fabricates the part directly from solid material through a computer-controlled cutting and milling process.
People also have used the term, subtractive rapid prototyping for describing this process. Because it is in contrast with 3D printing, which is sometimes referred to as additive manufacturing.
The reason for that is when the CNC machine is employed to produce a part or functional prototype, it generally does that by removing material from a starting material for creating the final part precisely to the CAD model specifications. And with the modernization of CNC machines, this material removal process is efficient, quick, and accurate to demanding specifications.
It is because of this subtractive nature, that CNC prototyping permits for parts that are made from literally any material that is machinable and commercially available in cast or extruded stock.
What this does is, it provides material versatility and permits prototyping in materials that are often identical. The supplier of CNC prototyping offers an outstanding option for low volume customized products and prototypes with precision results! Amongst the very many benefits offered by prototyping, there are two that stand out.
When you create a prototype, you are actually able to know the flaws that your design has. Because you get to create a model before producing hundreds or thousands of finished products. So your engineering team can identify potential problems, often in the minor geometry or functional issues that are difficult to catch in a computer model alone.
By knowing this, the manufacturer can make the necessary corrections before going into full production, which saves him or her a significant amount of money.
The second benefit that stands out is the human factors, or how humans interact with the product are most often best assessed on the prototype. So the issues such as color, texture, feel light, shadows, temperature to touch, resistance to motion, etc. can be assessed with prototypes.
What are the Applications of Prototyping?
Prototyping and particularly CNC Prototyping can benefit any industry, whether it is aviation, automotive, or architecture, or aerospace, construction, medical. Every single field that requires a finished product with precision and detail is meant to benefit.
What prototyping gives an option for is making edits in the product before making the final product. This is something that was not given before or if it was given, it wasn’t given as efficiently in a timely manner as right now.
By investing in the prototype process with CNC machining, you are consciously reducing the risk of time-consuming and costly mistakes. Similarly, CNC is a viable option for many lower volume production projects. Depending on the geometry and material, that a customer requires i.e.
100 or 1,000 units, CNC prototyping may be an excellent option because it eliminates the need for upfront tooling and molds. And this is due to its on-demand manufacturing methodology. Another vertical when CNC machining turns out to be an outstanding process is when a customer needs a plastic or metal prototype or multiple pieces in low volume manufacturing.
What are the Benefits of CNC Rapid Prototyping?
Undoubtedly you have the checking of the part before it is made, the option to edit your flaws in it. But there are also benefits which you haven’t yet come across.
The ability to order from anywhere
This is because the online CNC services are, well, available online. You do not necessarily have the only option to stick to local providers for producing your prototypes or one-off items.
What this essentially also means is that you have more options when it comes to finding services that suit your budget and requirements. The only downside here is to decide from the number of delivery times available to you.
Online CNC rapid prototyping service providers have different quality and different delivery times, so it increases the scope of market research which wouldn’t have been the case when you just have one or two shops near to you. It is seen that usually, it takes around 7 to 14 days for the CNC prototyping result to be delivered to your door.
So, as long as you take into account the shipping time, you are free to order CNC services from any provider that suits you best.
It gives you the ability to order more than just one-off items
The CNC machines are capable of creating complex items from a computer-aided design file. And there is absolutely no limit as to the kind of design you can create or the level of complexity the machine can handle. The more advanced CNC machines are actually capable of producing one-off items accommodating all the immense accuracy and details.
Having said that, CNC rapid prototyping isn’t just useful for producing one-off items. Users can also use CNC to do rapid tooling for mass production of a simple part which is not eccentric.
By going one step further, you can use CNC in conjunction with other technologies such as 3D printing. And that can yield molds for mass production. For creating customized tooling for mass production, CNC is the technology that is going to suit you the most from all the other technologies that is available.
The molds that you produce are guaranteed to have incredible accuracy and an unrivaled level of detail. So as a manufacturer, you have a guarantee when you are using CNC prototyping that your finished products will also be of high quality.
Something that is interesting about the presence of technologies like 3D printing and CNC is how businesses, after their invention are really embrace prototyping as part of their product development process. With comparison to the old days wherein, businesses tend to shy away from producing real prototypes until they felt it was absolutely needed.
However, there are some drawbacks to this approach. Faults and potential product design failures cannot always be detected in 3D environments.
As 3D testing is going more and more advanced, real-world testing is still needed to make sure that the product design is sound enough for mass production.
CNC Rapid prototyping services make this a possibility. But plain prototyping is also good for the customers, as the product designers can immediately test customer experience on it and how customers potentially interact with the product in the future. In a way, even before the product is manufactured and shipped to customers, the corrections and improvements can be added to the product design.
This lets you stay one step ahead and start designing what’s next in terms of product according to consumer demand.