To many, additive technology is practically symbolic of rapid prototyping. An additive process such as 3D printing-in which CAD data are used to effortlessly generate a detailed and tangible physical model because they build it in layers-would seem to give the ideal method to obtain a prototype part.
Indeed, Larry Happ, president of Designcraft, sees 3D printing as well as stereolithography for being important to his company’s work. Designcraft is really a firm in Lake Zurich, Illinois that may be committed to product development. Just for this company, one of those two additive technologies provides the starting point for practically every new job.
Yet the company merely has two additive machines, one for every one of these processes. By contrast, it offers 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 offering not just fit and feel, but the functionality of the end-use product. At Designcraft, machining is definitely the technology that carries prototyping the furthest.
That advertise of functionally equivalent prototypes even extends to parts that eventually will need high-cost tooling such as molds or dies. The speed, stability and precision of Designcraft’s machining centers (from Creative Evolution) permit fast and accurate machining of thin-wall parts-including milled hog-outs that usually are meant to replicate stampings crafted from sheet metal. (See bottom photo off to the right.)
CNC machining, the truth is, remains to be the most accurate process for producing most 3D features. Even some additive parts get machined. Of your company’s two additive devices, the 3D printer from Objet is capable of doing generating detailed parts quicker, as the stereolithography machine from 3D Systems produces parts that have properties nearer to just what a plastic part may have completely production. In cases where material properties are an essential consideration for the part which requires chinbecnnc details, stereolithography could be used, although the part may also be machined. The organization routinely uses machining centers to engrave serial numbers on stereolithography parts, as an example.
The question of material properties actually points to 1 further advantage of making prototypes with CNC machining. It could seem an apparent point, but on these machines, deciding on a materials is virtually limitless. The fabric just needs to be tough enough to become machined. CNC machining centers, therefore, can produce functional prototypes not simply from metal, but additionally from plastics, woods or synthetics. Taken together, all of these features of CNC machining reveal why Designcraft has invested so heavily in this particular approach-inspite of the barriers that machining presents.
Those barriers, for a design-related firm, essentially fall on the challenge of obtaining the right personnel in position.
Machining centers should be programmed, as an example. Each job also needs to be create and run by someone knowledgeable about machining. Personnel resources of this sort are fundamental to your production machine shop, but are not really a part of a prototyping firm. The firm has got to elect to cultivate those resources.
Cultivating them is precisely what Designcraft has been doing. The cnc machining parts employees are often grown from within. While one or more skilled employee who may be now succeeding in the company was hired directly away from a production machining environment, Mr. Happ says hiring with this background actually has not succeeded for your firm typically. The company’s work of earning unproven and frequently vaguely defined parts in tiny quantities differs considerably from your work of optimizing a repeatable production process for the part that has a well established design. Consequently, the more successful employees at Designcraft have tended to be hires who show a knack for machining, but haven’t been shaped through the experience with full production, Mr. Happ says. One wrinkle, though, is the clients are increasingly being pulled closer to production work.
He thinks the recession no less than partially explains this. Businesses want to make up revenue lost using their major product lines by exploring “minor” product lines instead-developing products for previously unexplored market niches. For these particular smaller markets, it requires longer to determine which the current market demand truly is, and whether the demand justifies committed production. Designcraft is therefore asked to continue making machined parts while the customer figures this out.
Thus, using cnc milling parts as being a prototyping technology also offers this additional advantage: With machining, as Designcraft is demonstrating, this product-development phase may be prolonged to suit the customer’s need.
Actually, this product-development window could be closed gradually rather than decisively, using the machining work morphing seamlessly to the initial production required to enter a market and begin a presence. Once the prototype parts are also functional parts, a manufacturer can wait to decide on full production until it is fully ready to accomplish this.