Sophisticated 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD) software has made CNC machining a cost competitive method for making parts in prototype quantities. The CNC process of producing a part from solid stock has attributes of; high quality, strength, functionality and smooth surfaces thus making machined parts generally superior to additive/layered manufacturing (3D printing) processes.
Both processes, however, have a place in product development. Typically, the beginning phases of product design produce no physical prototypes at all. The process begins with 3D CAD modeling, which allows parts to be designed, assembled, and even tested using finite element analysis (FEA) in the virtual world. The first step into the physical realm may be 3D printing, especially in early stages of product development when rough surfaces and strong materials may not make much of a difference.
As development proceeds and functional testing begins, material and structure matter more, making rapid machining a better choice. Quick turnaround and moderate cost of automated CNC machining let developers begin functional testing early in the development cycle and avoid the need for costly, time-consuming backtracking later. This may entail several iterations of machined prototyping as development proceeds and testing identifies potential improvements in the design.
CNC machining can also be used to produce jigs, forms, or fixtures used in various production processes. Finally, the concept of “lean startup” is leading to the early introduction of devices to markets while development continues and products are fine-tuned based on market feedback. In such cases, the line between prototyping and production becomes blurred, and products may go to market in a series of evolving, low-volume production runs requiring clear documentation and version control.
While no one method of prototyping meets all needs, CNC machining has grown in capabilities and is a powerful tool for part prototyping and low-volume production. From the early stages of product development through product introduction and full-scale manufacturing Aptech can generate parts quickly, accurately, and affordably. And with the development of faster programs for toolpath generation, wider selection of materials, and service providers specializing in short-run prototyping and production, this is a technology worth exploring to help reduce costs and time to market.
We recognise the need for a quick response to the production of prototypes. Our fast-track prototype machining service offers a cost-effective route to getting your design off the drawing board. Continued investment in CAD/CAM software guarantees that we offer advanced solutions to reduce production cycle times, and hence reduce the cost to you, our customer.
We believe that involvement at an early stage with our customers on new projects is the key to successful design and efficient manufacture. We have accumulated many years of experience in both these fields, and can help to establish the most cost-effective methods of manufacturing to suit your requirements.
Quality assurance is an integral part of ApTech Precision Machining, covering all aspects of the production process, from the initial customer enquiry through to final inspection. All machined components and mechanical sub-assemblies are subject to a stringent inspection regime, to ensure a right-first-time service and zero-defect delivery.