It goes without saying that there are many benefits to prototyping. Prototyping allows you to see a product, hold it in your hands, and even test it to ensure it will fit exactly where it is meant to. Of course, nearly any design is going to require some degree of revisions, taking you through several iterations of the same design before you land on just what you are looking for. And speed to market is critical; the fast you have a satisfactory prototype, the faster you will be able to get your product on shelves. Here, Fair Haven would like to compare some aspects of CNC machining and rapid prototyping with 3D printing and explain why CNC machining will get you through the prototyping process faster and more efficiently.
The first thing to account for is speed. 3D printing creates a part layer by layer, meaning it can take hours to complete, and unfortunately, the process does not end there. Instead of starting with a simple CAD model as you would during CNC machining, you have to create support structures for the component to ensure it does not collapse. Once the piece is printed, you will usually need to do some additional cutting, as well as grinding or sanding to remove any visible layers left on the surface following the 3D printing process.
While metal printing continues to evolve, one of its biggest limitations is the need to deposit and fuse a specific powder; this means there is a good chance you may not be able to have your prototype 3D printed in the exact material you are hoping for. This can also have an adverse effect on aspects such as appearance and testing. Fortunately, this limitation is eliminated when using rapid CNC machining for prototyping.
As we have mentioned, even the most accurate 3D printing involves some amount of cutting, grinding, or sanding to make the piece as precise as you need it to be. Fortunately, accuracy is where CNC machining excels. Fair Haven Machine can hold tolerances as tight as 0.0001”. Additionally, most 3D printers available today have a working envelope about the size of a shoebox (or smaller); comparatively, CNC lathes and mills offer much larger envelopes to work with.
That is not to say 3D printing is never right for prototyping. In cases where you require features that cannot be produced by machining, you would be machining away most of the material, or you simply need a low-fidelity piece to hold in your hands, 3D printing can often meet your prototyping needs. But the benefits of CNC rapid prototyping are numerous: you will receive a part not only suitable for testing but machined from the exact material you would like and with final parts precision, meaning it will be made to print and will assemble to mating parts.
With the unique CNC machining processes and equipment we use, Fair Haven Machine can take a CAD model and turn it into machine parts in just a few hours.
More often than not, CNC rapid machining is going to be not only faster but more accurate for prototyping than 3D printing. If you are in need of prototype parts in a hurry, simply bring your design to us and our expert staff will be happy to walk you through the best option to meet your needs.
Contact Fair Haven Machine and get started on your next CNC rapid prototyping project today.