CNC Prototyping Machining for Custom Parts
Prototyping CNC machining is an important step in the product development process. Manufacturers cannot afford to produce large volumes of items that are unproven or untested for functionality and design.
They could rely on conventional methods of prototyping machining for custom parts, but these tend to be expensive and time-consuming. Unlike CNC prototyping machining, the methods may also lack the tight tolerances required in today’s industries. There are many other pros of CNC rapid prototyping, which make it largely appealing to manufacturers for custom prototypes.
This article reviews the CNC machining process for prototypes, looking at its pros and cons, as well as some applications in the market.
What is Prototype Machining?
Prototype machining is a process used in product development to create functional prototypes of a design before mass production. It involves the use of machining techniques to fabricate physical models or prototypes of a product, which can be tested and evaluated for functionality, fit, and form.
A computer-controlled machine carves out a model from metal, plastic, or any other applicable solid material. Manufacturers use prototype machining to identify design flaws before embarking on full-scale production.
CNC prototyping is a popular subtractive manufacturing process for fast production of prototypes. Rapid CNC prototyping makes the manufacturing process cost-effective and attracts other advantages of CNC.
Applications of CNC Machining Prototypes
The evaluation and testing conditions within the automotive manufacturing industry are getting stricter by the day. Automotive components must go through these standardization steps before they are produced and used for manufacture.
This is important because it guides the manufacturer on whether it is feasible to continue with the production. If the design is feasible, prototyping acts as a reliable validation process. Gears and many other components in the automotive industry must meet tight tolerances. CNC machining helps achieve this.
Prototyping machining for the automotive industry utilizes plastic or metal to machine a component that resembles the properties of the intended design. These prototypes have superior mechanical properties and high dimensional preciseness.
CNC machining prototypes also help reduce lead time significantly and save the auto manufacturer money. The capabilities of CNC machining include advanced CNC turning and CNC milling processes.
The aerospace industry applies a wide range of intricate components. In this industry, the slightest error can cause wear and tear on the components and parts. If they break during a flight, disaster can follow.
Prototype CNC machining is critical for the industry because one of its aims is to eliminate design flaws. Unlike other industries such as automotive, the aerospace industry does not require large production volumes. This factor alone makes the machining process for prototyping attractive economically.
The aerospace industry typically uses parts with unique geometrical and material requirements. For instance, the superalloy Inconel® is common in the manufacture of jet engines. The CNC machining prototyping process is ideal for the tight tolerances that must be met in this industry.
Some of the components that are made using CNC machining for prototypes are airfoils and landing gear ports.
The sophistication and sensitivity of equipment and components used in the medical industry continue to evolve. There are stringent requirements for safety, reliability, and customization in this industry. Given these circumstances, CNC prototyping machining is central to the effective functioning of this essential industry.
The medical industry is highly dependent on the CNC machining process because of the precision needed. The tools that the doctors use and the implants for patients must be accurately designed.
With prototyping CNC machining, medical engineers can design safe and reliable products. This method presents dynamism and cost-effectiveness that is unavailable in other prototyping processes such as 3d printing.
Military and Defense Industry
The CNC prototyping process supports the manufacturing requirements within the military and defense industry. Because of the tough working conditions that military equipment must endure, the design of the components must be equally robust. Accuracy and precision are particularly critical characteristics of military products.
Prototyping using the CNC approach helps the industry design and develop intricate components for the navy, combat department, and other segments of this industry.
Benefits of CNC Machined Prototypes
CNC prototyping machining applies to a wide range of materials. This is different from an alternative prototyping method such as 3D printing, which is more limited.
At Aria Manufacturing Limited, we demonstrate the versatility of the CNC prototyping method by handling a wide range of plastics. They include PET, PP(Polypropylene), PC(Polycarbonate), and ABS. Others are PMMA(Acrylic), HDPE(High-Density Polyethylene), and Nylon.
For Metal CNC prototype machining, we handle the following varieties:
2. Easy Modification
Sometimes, product designers test the market using a CNC prototype. Before full production of an item, a business has the chance to get more insight into how the market will react to the product. If there is a need for any modification, that will emerge during the testing stage.
The worst that a business can do is to get into full-scale production without rapid prototyping. They could realize much later that the product design had serious flaws. The reputation of the business may already have been ruined by then.
We always recommend the use of a CNC machining prototype for such instances because the modification is easy. The engineer only needs to modify the initial design in the cad files and reprogram the machine. Apart from reducing the time needed to design the prototype, this also allows for a faster introduction of functional prototypes and the final product to the market. This may not be possible if you choose alternative prototyping processes.
3. Fixed Tooling Unnecessary
The machined tooling requirements in alternative prototyping processes can be demanding. Some of these processes involve special tooling systems that must be prepared beforehand. Such requirements can increase the lead time and production cost.
In CNC machine prototype making, fixed tooling is not a requirement. The CNC machine has a turntable that holds a wide range of tools to create prototypes. Check this article that highlights the different types of CNC cutting tools available.
4. Structural Suitability of the Machined Parts
CNC machined parts demonstrate immense structural integrity as compared to parts made by an alternative process such as 3d printing. Parts that are machined using advanced CNC technology are hard, stiff, and strong.
This is unlike additive processes, which tend to have challenges with layer fusion. Porosity and voids are likely to be found in custom prototypes made through 3d printing. Due to these inconsistencies, the final product can present structural challenges.
5. Sizeable Products
Are you planning to produce a five-foot-high component? If there is a prototype machining method that can deliver functional and sizeable products, it is CNC machining. Some CNC prototyping machines can produce components as big as eight feet!
In prototype machining where a lot of assembly of parts is undesirable, using large machined parts may be necessary. A CNC machined prototype tends to be more optimal than a prototype produced by alternative rapid prototyping.
6. CNC Machined Parts with Tight Tolerances
CNC machining can produce custom parts with the highest degree of accuracy. The tolerance can be as tight as 1/10,000 of an inch. At Aria, the tolerances are as tight as ±0.0004″ (0.01mm).
That means the custom parts are easy to integrate into the rest of the assembly. Tight tolerances also allow product designers to try out different options to get the best design.
7. The Product and Prototype are Similar
The best scenario is where the finished products and their functional prototypes look and work the same. Most manufacturers use CNC machining for their finished products, so it is ideal to use the very same process and approach to create prototypes. The same machining centers can be used for the prototype and the finished product alike.
Benefits of CNC Machined Prototypes
1. The Process is Relatively Costly
This subtractive process tends to be more costly compared to the alternatives in the prototyping stage. Initially, the user may see this as a drawback. However, the longer-term advantages of CNC are very appealing.
Some of the benefits of CNC machining prototypes are higher efficiency, money savings, and better client retention owing to a reputation of superior quality.
2. Confusion: Finished product vs. Prototype
The prototype of CNC machining, in some cases, can be confused because the prototype resembles the final product. End users may be inclined to choose the prototype over the final product, and vice versa.
The user may view the end product as unfinished because they like some features on the prototype. Such features may have already been removed by CNC prototype machining for the final product manufacturing process.
3. Could Cause Material Wastage
As a subtractive process, CNC prototyping will typically produce some waste. You have to buy more material to cater for this waste. This is different from a process such as 3d printing, which involves very minimal waste.
4. Some Geometrical Limits
Due to cutting tool access challenges, CNC machining service may have problems manufacturing internal geometries and some features. In such instances, it might be preferable to apply 3d printing instead.
Tips For CNC Machined Prototypes
CNC prototype machining is an effective subtractive manufacturing process for machined prototypes used for different industries. Advanced CNC technology could be applicable in your project, but you need to implement it correctly. Here are handy tips that can enhance the effectiveness of CNC machine prototypes:
Select Material Properly
Prototype machining projects have their unique material requirements. Some important factors to consider regarding various materials are material waste, cost, and strength.
Use High Quality Cutting Tools
The quality of CNC machined parts can depend on the quality of the cutting tools employed. Make sure that the CNC machine tools are of the highest quality, particularly concerning tool geometry and sharpness.
Ensure Optimal Tolerance Level
The tolerance requirements of a CNC prototype are achievable with the right fixtures, tools, and expertise. With the ultra tight tolerances, one may need to be even more vigilant on these factors. With our experienced design engineers, you can get the optimal tolerance level for your CNC prototypes.
Optimize the Design
CNC rapid prototyping may be versatile, but it still has particular prototype design requirements that must be met. Cutting tool access, surface finish, and tolerance are notable design considerations. Make sure that the digital design and custom part complexity are optimized before starting the CNC prototype machining process.
Insist on Adequate Quality Control
The quality of the results of CNC prototype machining is as good as the quality control process. When the manufacturing process starts, ensure the highest level of quality control. This means that you will be able to get final products similar to high-quality prototypes.
Minimize Complex Geometries
External and internal geometries of prototypes can vary significantly. Higher geometry complexity tends to be costlier, and vice versa. The product development speed can also be hampered if the part geometry is complex. Therefore, simplify the prototype design where possible.
CNC Machining Prototyping With Aria
No matter your CNC machining prototyping needs, Aria is your reliable partner. We create high-quality prototypes using computerized controls to take your business to the next level. Our state-of-the-art CNC prototyping services make it faster and easier for businesses to get prototypes with microscopic precision, material versatility, and at an affordable cost.
We subject all our CNC machined parts to thorough quality checks before they are shipped to the customer. So, is your CNC machining good? Visit our website for more details about our world class CNC machined prototypes and overall advancement in CNC machining capability.