Canadian Manufacturing

3 useful tips for CNC rapid prototyping in manufacturing

by Emily Newton, Editor-in-Chief, Revolutionized   

Manufacturing advanced manufacturing In Focus Manufacturing marketing Research Technology

The prototyping-as-a-service sector is still relatively new, but it’s becoming more prominent.

PHOTO: iStock

CNC rapid prototyping is an excellent option when clients want to assess how well proposed designs will work and do that in a tight timeframe. However, efforts are more likely to proceed smoothly when people follow specific tips.

1. Use Products That Support Rapid Prototyping

People can create the foundation for  great results with rapid prototyping when they ensure they have the best tools for success. One of the challenges associated with making prototypes is that they often have unusual shapes.

However, one company met that challenge by creating adaptable vice jaws that allow for faster bespoke milling. While speaking about that offering, a business representative noted that the product is especially advantageous for those in the rapid prototyping space. Using the adjustable jaws eliminates the production time associated with machining customized versions to hold the prototype while working on it.

People at companies that regularly engage in CNC rapid prototyping should continually assess whether new tools would make it easier to do the work. Alternatively, they can look at things in a different way and pinpoint existing challenges. Then, they can explore whether tailored products would help them overcome those obstacles.


2. Consider On-Machine Inspection Methods

Companies that regularly use CNC machining are gradually transitioning away from coordinate measuring machines (CMM) for quality control. CMMs check that a finished part’s dimensions and geometry match the original design. However, using them is not the ideal approach.

That’s primarily because a CMM only allows for finding errors on finished parts. That means fixing problems requires extra time and materials. Since CNC rapid prototyping is all about efficient turnarounds, the way CMMs work poses notable disadvantages.

An improvement is to pursue on-machine inspections with a machine tool probing system. Such options mount onto a CNC machine’s turret or spindle. They then check parts during the machining process or just after it, before someone removes the components from CNC machines.

These solutions can monitor a workpiece’s surface condition without disrupting productivity. Moving forward with on-machine inspections could also reveal that certain machines need positional accuracy improvements. The associated adjustments speed up turnaround time and reduce rework.

3. Investigate As-a-Service Options

Many company leaders can’t afford to scale up operations to the extent necessary on their current budgets. That’s one of the main reasons why as-a-service offerings have become so popular. One manufacturer used that option to invest in a machine-tending robot. It could produce 750 components every 10 hours.

The prototyping-as-a-service sector is still relatively new, but it’s becoming more prominent. Most companies specializing in it offer their services by batching orders onto large sheets of shared stock material.

Besides being a suitable option for CNC machining, it enables people to prototype products with methods such as water jetting and laser cutting. They can do so without investing in the machinery, which generally makes this option much more affordable. Plus, the parts typically get delivered through the mail to a customer’s doorstep with swift turnarounds.

Succeed With CNC Rapid Prototyping

These suggestions will help you get the best outcomes with future CNC rapid prototyping projects, regardless of their purpose or scope. Aim to get even better results by taking note of lessons learned during each prototyping attempt. That collective knowledge will lead to better outcomes moving forward.


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