To many, additive technology is practically symbolic of rapid prototyping. An additive process including 3D printing-by which CAD data are widely used to effortlessly generate a detailed and tangible physical model by building it in layers-would seem to give the ideal method to obtain a prototype part.
Indeed, Larry Happ, president of Designcraft, sees 3D printing and also stereolithography for being necessary to his company’s work. Designcraft is really a firm in Lake Zurich, Illinois which is committed to product development. For this particular company, one of these two additive technologies supplies the beginning point for practically every new job.
However the company just has two additive machines, one for all these processes. By contrast, it has nine vertical machining centers. After any job moves beyond the “fit and feel” stage of prototyping, china CNC machining typically provides the most effective prototyping technology for realizing the next thing-namely, parts that offer not only fit and feel, but the functionality of the end-use product. At Designcraft, machining is definitely the technology that carries prototyping the furthest.
That promise of functionally equivalent prototypes even reaches parts that eventually will require high-cost tooling for example molds or dies. The rate, stability and precision of Designcraft’s machining centers (from Creative Evolution) permit quick and accurate machining of thin-wall parts-including milled hog-outs that are intended to replicate stampings made out of sheet metal. (See bottom photo to the right.)
CNC machining, the truth is, remains the most accurate process for producing most 3D features. Even some additive parts get machined. In the company’s two additive devices, the 3D printer from Objet is capable of doing generating detailed parts quicker, while the stereolithography machine from 3D Systems produces parts which may have properties even closer such a plastic part could have 100 % production. In instances where material properties are an essential consideration for the part which requires chinbecnnc details, stereolithography may be used, although the part may additionally be machined. The corporation routinely uses machining centers to engrave serial numbers on stereolithography parts, as an example.
The question of material properties actually points to one further benefit of making prototypes with CNC machining. It could seem a clear point, but on these machines, the option of materials is virtually limitless. The content just must be tough enough to get machined. CNC machining centers, therefore, can produce functional prototypes not simply from metal, but in addition from plastics, woods or synthetics. Taken together, many of these features of CNC machining reveal why Designcraft has invested so heavily with this approach-regardless of the barriers that machining presents.
Those barriers, for the design-related firm, essentially fall to the challenge of obtaining the best personnel into position.
Machining centers need to be programmed, by way of example. Each job also should be create and run by someone knowledgeable about machining. Personnel resources with this sort are fundamental to the production machine shop, but they are not always element of a prototyping firm. The firm needs to opt to cultivate those resources.
Cultivating them is exactly what Designcraft did. The cnc machining service workers are often grown from the inside. While a minumum of one skilled employee who seems to be now succeeding in the company was hired directly out of a production machining environment, Mr. Happ says hiring out of this background actually has not succeeded to the firm in most cases. The company’s work of creating unproven and quite often vaguely defined parts in tiny quantities differs considerably from the work of optimizing a repeatable production process for any part which has a recognised design. Consequently, the greater successful employees at Designcraft have tended to become hires who show a knack for machining, but haven’t ever been shaped by the experience with full production, Mr. Happ says. One wrinkle, though, is the clients are increasingly being pulled even closer to production work.
He thinks the recession at least partially explains this. Businesses are trying to comprise revenue lost from their major product lines by exploring “minor” product lines instead-developing products for previously unexplored market niches. For these particular smaller markets, it will take longer to determine which the market demand truly is, and regardless of if the demand justifies committed production. Designcraft is therefore required to continue making machined parts as the customer figures this out.
Thus, using cnc turning parts as a prototyping technology even offers this additional advantage: With machining, as Designcraft is demonstrating, this product-development phase might be prolonged to put the customer’s need.
In reality, this product-development window could be closed gradually as an alternative to decisively, using the machining work morphing seamlessly to the initial production needed to enter a market and begin a presence. As soon as the prototype parts can also be functional parts, a manufacturer can wait to commit to full production until it can be fully ready to achieve this.