Rapid prototyping is a must process in new product development for engineers and designers to verify the new designs before mass production in almost every industry. There are several types of rapid prototype machining and molding services. The general working processes are normally the same, although some details of the specific machining methods. In this article, we would like to discuss the general working process.
After the customer confirms the 3D files and all machining and finishing requirements. The machining tasks will be divided into separate jobs with each step completed by different departments. The whole process is usually as below.
The rapid prototype machining services commonly start with programming, especially for CNC machining and 3D printing. Vacuum casting prototypes involve molding services. The silicone molds are made based on CNC-machined or 3D-printed models. In the strict sense, vacuum casting also begins with programming.
The programmer edits codes for CNC machining or 3D printing based on 3D files provided by the customer. It is also a process that the production department checks carefully if there are any manufacturing issues so as to avoid potential problems. If there are issues, we can fix them before manufacturing to prevent possible losses. It also makes the machining work repeatable. When the customer reorders the same parts, it helps save time by using the same codes.
The machining process is the primary phase of all rapid prototype machining services. Manufacturing methods for prototyping, such as CNC machining, vacuum casting, and 3D printing, differ. Take the most widely applied CNC machining as an example. The programmer inputs codes into the CNC machine. The technician takes over the job of operating the machine. The latter has less work because CNC machining automatically processes components based on the pre-programmed codes.
Prototype molding services like vacuum casting have more production steps such as making molds, injecting liquid materials, and de-molding. In an additive manufacturing way, it is normal that the part is ready after printing without any further treatments. So sometimes, additive manufacturing takes less time.
3. Manual treatments
After taking out the parts from the machines, some handwork needs to be done. The technician will first double-check them according to the 3D drawings to guarantee there are no errors. If the component is different from the 3D file, it will be revised before the surface finishing. Other jobs covering removing burrs, gluing, sanding, polishing, and trial assembly will be done before surface treatment as well.
4. Surface treatments
Per the design sketch, we finish a series of surface treatments. The commonly applied ones are painting, silk-screening, electroplating, etc. The less usual finishings are laser engraving, oxidation, and brushing. Colors for painting are often according to the Pantone Matching System or RAL Matching System. Sometimes, painted samples will be provided to double-confirm the desired colors. You can read more here about the finishings in rapid prototyping. For structural verification purposes, usually, no finishing is needed, which also saves you time and money.
5. Quality inspection and assembly
All the machining work finishes after surface finishing. But it is not the end. Even though the parts are just prototypes, there are tolerance requirements. A quality inspector will check the appearance and sizes to ensure that they conform to standards. After everything is confirmed, all the parts will be assembled or they can also stay unassembled per the customer’s need. Each supplier should be informed of the assembly requirements when the prototype is made up of different parts manufactured by different parts to avoid interference. Usually, an inspection report will be provided before shipping.
P.S. there are, in fact, no uniform standards for prototypes. Both sides should reach a consensus before the project begins, which can avoid many issues afterward.
All qualified parts will be well-packed before cross-border shipment. The quantity of prototypes by molding services is relatively large and they will also be all put in suitable cartons to prevent damage during shipment. So far, our customers haven't complained about damage caused by bad packaging. In addition to safe shipment, we also consider the shipping fee to make sure the freight will be the lowest by controlling the volume weight properly.
X Rapid Technologies provides numerous rapid prototype machining and molding services, including CNC machining, vacuum casting, 3D printing, sheet metal fabrication, rapid tooling, Reaction Injection Molding (RIM), etc. Welcome to contact us for free quotes and kickstart your projects right away! Let's talk about the materials, surface treatment, tolerances, and lead times you want. Custom solutions will be provided within 24 hours with a fast lead time of 3 to 7 days and delivery worldwide.