To numerous, additive technology is practically synonymous with rapid prototyping. An additive process for example 3D printing-in which CAD data are used to effortlessly produce a detailed and tangible physical model by building it in layers-would seem to give the ideal way to obtain a prototype part.
Indeed, Larry Happ, president of Designcraft, sees 3D printing in addition to stereolithography as being necessary to his company’s work. Designcraft can be a firm in Lake Zurich, Illinois that is committed to product development. With this company, one of those two additive technologies delivers the starting point for practically every new job.
Yet the company has only 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 very best prototyping technology for realizing the next phase-namely, parts that provide not only fit and feel, but the functionality of the end-use product. At Designcraft, machining may be the technology that carries prototyping the furthest.
Which promise of functionally equivalent prototypes even extends to parts that eventually requires 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 off to the right.)
CNC machining, in reality, remains the most accurate process for producing most 3D features. Even some additive parts get machined. From the company’s two additive devices, the 3D printer from Objet is capable of doing generating detailed parts faster, even though the stereolithography machine from 3D Systems produces parts which may have properties closer to just what a plastic part will have in full production. In situations where material properties are a significant consideration for a part that also requires chinbecnnc details, stereolithography might be used, nevertheless the part could also be machined. The business routinely uses machining centers to engrave serial numbers on stereolithography parts, for instance.
The question of material properties actually points to a single further benefit of making prototypes with CNC machining. It may possibly seem a clear point, but on these machines, deciding on a materials is virtually limitless. The content just should be tough enough to get machined. CNC machining centers, therefore, can produce functional prototypes not only from metal, but additionally from plastics, woods or synthetics. Taken together, every one of these benefits of CNC machining reveal why Designcraft has invested so heavily with this approach-regardless of the barriers that machining presents.
Those barriers, for a design-related firm, essentially fall towards the challenge of experiencing the proper personnel in position.
Machining centers must be programmed, as an example. Each job also must be put in place and run by someone informed about machining. Personnel resources of the sort are fundamental for any production machine shop, but they are possibly not component of a prototyping firm. The firm needs to decide to cultivate those resources.
Cultivating them is precisely what Designcraft did. The cnc machining parts employees are often grown from within. While at least one skilled employee who seems to be now succeeding with the company was hired directly out of a production machining environment, Mr. Happ says hiring out of this background actually has not yet succeeded for that firm generally. The company’s work of earning unproven and quite often vaguely defined parts in tiny quantities differs considerably from the work of optimizing a repeatable production process for a part which has an established design. Because of this, the more successful employees at Designcraft have tended to get hires who show a knack for machining, but haven’t ever been shaped with the experience with full production, Mr. Happ says. One wrinkle, though, would be that the company is increasingly being pulled even closer to production work.
He thinks the recession at least partially explains this. Businesses are trying to comprise revenue lost using their major product lines by exploring “minor” product lines instead-developing products for previously unexplored market niches. Of these smaller markets, it will take longer to determine which the market demand truly is, and if the demand justifies committed production. Designcraft is therefore motivated to continue making machined parts even though the customer figures this out.
Thus, using cnc milling parts like a prototyping technology also offers that one additional advantage: With machining, as Designcraft is demonstrating, the item-development phase could be prolonged to suit the customer’s need.
In fact, the item-development window may be closed gradually as opposed to decisively, using the machining work morphing seamlessly in to the initial production necessary to enter a market and establish a presence. Once the prototype parts will also be functional parts, a manufacturer can wait to agree to full production until it can be fully ready to achieve this.