Modern technologies have opened up new possibilities for prototyping. Because of its low cost and on-demand nature, 3D printing or so-called Additive Manufacturing is a popular option for rapid prototyping. However, machining is still an important prototyping method that should not be ignored. Prototype machining can often be more advantageous than 3D printing or other prototyping methods.
The reason? That’s what we will discuss more in this post.
High accuracy and consistency
Prototype machining has the first and most important advantage, which is also its consistency and accuracy. CNC machining has some of the most precise tolerances possible and is well-known because of its reliability and consistency. CNC machining is capable of producing prototypes within a fraction a millimeter (+0.025 mm).
Prototyping is especially effective for metal prototyping. However, it can be costly and inaccurate. Many metal AM systems remain prohibitively expensive. For tolerances, most metal additive manufacturing systems can achieve an accuracy of +- 0.200mm. Learn more about this in this post.
Another benefit to using machining to develop your product prototypes and products is the ability to produce prototypes with full function for testing and evaluation. Machined parts are made from solid material and have similar mechanical properties as injection-molded components.
Prototype machining also allows the customer or designer to have the prototype in their hands. This is a better option than a digital prototype. A physical prototype can be used to identify design flaws. Designers and engineers can quickly find and fix issues with a functional prototype. They also show customers and other stakeholders how the final product will feel, look and function.
Flexible materials and finishing options
CNC machining is another manufacturing process that offers the greatest number of possible materials. Customers can order prototypes from the same material that the final end-use parts no matter they are metal, plastic, or another material. Contrary to 3D printing, there are very few material options. This means prototypes should be made from the most economical material available. Functional prototyping is possible when there are many prototyping materials available.
Prototype machining is compatible with many finishing options including bead blasting and powder coating, electroplating as well as polishing, brushing and painting. Although it might not be necessary to use certain finishing processes for all prototypes (e.g., a first prototype may not need a high quality finish), it can be very beneficial if the customer needs a prototype that is visually appealing. This is particularly important for prototyping consumer products and their production.
Prototype machining is the perfect process for seamlessly transitioning to final production. All the advantages mentioned above pay off once a customer is happy with their prototype, no matter if it’s the first or tenth iteration. The customer will then be able to look at the final product. CNC machining guarantees that prototypes can be reproduced precisely when it is time for final production. The transition to final production is made easier if the prototype is made from your intended end-use material.
Even though the final component will be manufactured using injection molding technology, machining can still guarantee seamless production. Machined prototypes have similar properties as injection-molded components and tooling can be made using CNC machining. Want.Net helps customers transition from prototyping to final manufacturing with ease and confidence. Our customers can benefit from prototype machining’s wide range of capabilities and flexible finishing options. We also offer injection molding and tooling production services that ensure seamless transition to production.