The process where a dummy product is manufactured or generated to test its functionality and evaluate its chances of failure before the final stage of production is known as Rapid Prototyping. It was first conceptualized in the 1970s, given its benefits to manufacturing technologies.
Rapid prototyping removes bottlenecks in the traditional prototyping used in the design process. It allows experimentation using physical models made in the least amount of time. It is time and cost-efficient due to the lack of setup and tooling costs.
A few popular ways of rapid prototyping include stereolithography, selective laser sintering, direct metal laser sintering, fused deposition modeling, universal milling machines, vacuum casting, investment casting, and so on. With the advent of additive and subtractive manufacturing processes, such as 3D printing and CNC machining, the parameters of rapid prototyping have transformed significantly.
A Complete Step-by-Step Process of CNC Rapid Prototyping (CNC-RP)
Various industries such as automotive, medical, consumer products, aviation, aerospace, industrial, and fitness equipment are reaping the benefits of CNC-RP. This article details the process of CNC-RP step-by-step:
The first step in rapid prototyping is design ideations. Designers and product engineers initially draw up as many possible designs as possible for the product. This includes dimensioning, positioning of features, designs concerning manufacturing, assembling, and testing. After all, ideations are created, the most efficient designs are picked, and subsequent steps in the process and taken.
3D Files Generation
CNC production largely relies on 3D files such as CAD/CAM designs. CAM and CAD designs are popular for their versatility in bringing innovative products into the market. The most efficient designs picked from the ideation process are converted into 3D files. The 3D files help assess the functionality and errors of the potential product as they define all dimensions, aesthetic aspects, and features of the final product.
Production Sequence Identification
The process following the generation of 3D files identifies the machining process necessary to manufacture each final product feature. The sequence of steps in manufacturing is also decided during this step. The different manufacturing processes involved in producing CNC-RP are CNC routing, CNC turning, CNC cutting, CNC milling, CNC drilling, etc.
The CNC machine that uses the CNC program is fed with the sequence of the manufacturing process chosen and the operating instructions of the tools used. Instructions concerning the choice of tools, traveling time and distance of the tools, number of runs, rate of feeding, depth of cutting, etc., are programmed using G-codes and M-codes. The CNC programming comprises all the instructions allowing automation of the CNC-RP based on production requirements.
The next step involves setting the CNC program in the CNC machine’s numeric control panels. The workpiece is then mounted on the tool, and the machine is put into operating mode. The process of CNC machining is seamless, and the desired prototype of the product, dummy or fully functional one which is look-and-work-alike, is achieved.
Fully functional prototypes may require different parts to be manufactured individually and then assembled. Prototypes that comprise mechanical linkages and interconnected components require this additional step.
The final and crucial step in the process of CNC-RP is testing the prototype. The functionality of the desired product is tested, and the possibilities of errors and the scope of failure are checked before finalizing the product.
The functionality, defects, durability, and overall performance are assessed in this step. Based on the outcome of the tests, the prototypes are approved by experts in the product, and the manufacturing of the final product is proceeded with. If the test has a negative outcome, the next best design ideations are chosen, and the same processes are carried on to arrive at the best possible final product.
The traditional research, prototyping, testing, and production schema is transformed with 3D prototyping and other new technologies and innovative products. CNC-RP is a strategic process that requires enterprises to employ and train staff to identify processes, CNC programming, and operations.
With CNC-RP, product development is taken to the next level regarding time and cost-efficiency in manufacturing products. It aids product revision and the creation and conceptualization of ideas. At the rate that CNC-RP is developing, it is sure that this new technology has revolutionized the industry and will continue to grow.