Historically, traditional prototyping has been a lengthy and expensive process, but modern, rapid prototyping allows ideas to take shape in a matter of days. CNC machining is an excellent choice for rapid prototyping.

Read on to learn more about traditional prototyping, rapid CNC prototyping, rapid prototyping industries, the benefits of using CNC machining for rapid prototyping, and the limitations of using CNC machining for rapid prototyping.

Traditional vs. Rapid Prototyping
Traditionally, prototyping for product development has involved the following steps:

Spending days or weeks designing a product with solid modeling software to create a 3D CAD model and a set of 2D drawings.
Getting quotes to fabricate the necessary components from several manufacturers.
Waiting weeks or months to receive your machined prototype, usually without much communication.
Traditional prototyping relies on antiquated methods like sand casting and mock-ups using clay molding, wood, wire, and tape. Although claymation movies may be amazing, those antiquated methods are best left to filmmakers. With the invention of CNC machining, 3D printing, and rapid prototyping methods, today’s engineers can fabricate prototypes faster than ever before.

Traditional Rapid Prototyping Processes
There are many traditional rapid prototyping production methods to choose from, each with benefits and limitations, including:

Stereolithography (SLA) 3D Printing
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D Printing
Selective Laser Melting (SLM), aka Powder Bed Fusion 3D Metal Printing
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D Printing
Sheet Lamination
Digital Light Processing (DLP) 3D Printing
Binder Jetting 3D Printing
3D Printing Traditional Prototyping: Advantages and Disadvantages
One concern with traditional rapid prototyping methods like 3D printing is that they create something that looks like the 3D model and may even be able to move or function as intended but is dimensionally inaccurate. However, there is a time and place to utilize 3D printing for rapid prototyping. One of the benefits of 3D printing for prototyping is that it provides a cost-effective option when you’re looking for a prototype for display purposes only.

Rapid prototyping with 3D printing also yields parts that are of a different density with different material properties than the final product. This is due to the narrow range of available materials for 3D printing — though the number of materials that can be utilized in additive manufacturing is continuously growing. For instance, metal 3D printed parts are often more porous, which can cause mechanical failures and variable density if not subsequently processed.

CNC Rapid Prototyping Processes
CNC machining has emerged as a good choice for rapid prototyping, especially precision prototype machining, due to the rising popularity of digital manufacturing. Here are some common processes for rapid prototyping with CNC machining:

CNC milling for the most complex geometries and quick material removal.
CNC turning for cylindrical parts like shafts or pins.
Electrical discharge machining (EDM) for delicate, complex geometries
CNC rapid prototype machining is optimal when you need an engineering or production prototype that looks, feels, and functions as the finished product. And, with digital manufacturing infrastructure like PROTO MFG, you can get instant quotes for CNC machined prototypes with turnaround times quickly (as fast as 7 days).

Industries That Can Benefit from Rapid CNC Machined Prototypes
Many industries can benefit from having functional or rapid CNC-machined precision prototypes. Some of the most common industries that use CNC machined protypes include:

Consumer Products
Benefits of CNC Machined Prototypes
Structural Integrity
CNC machined components offer greater strength and similarity to desired finished product mechanical and material properties than 3D printed parts. Among these desired properties, structural integrity is arguably the most important — structural integrity, is defined as the material’s strength, stiffness, and hardness.

With additive manufacturing methods, layer fusion is not always 100% successful, which results in voids, porosity, or layer shifting. These inconsistencies can adversely affect the finished product’s structural integrity. With subtractive manufacturing (CNC machining), your prototype is carved from solid, homogenous material stock, which reduces the possibility of geometric discontinuity.

PROTO MFG provides a wide range of manufacturing capabilities and other value-added services for all of your prototyping and production needs. Visit our website to learn more or to request a free, no-obligation quote.

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