Although prototyping has always been an essential element in the engineering and design process, it has been known to slow product design and development. If you offered prototyping services back in the 1940s and could beat a 7 – 10-week lead time, you could comfortably play within the prototyping market.
Everything changed after 1952, with the arrival of machining technologies that offered rapid prototyping capabilities, allowing product designers to create parts in a matter of hours. Since that time, the global rapid prototyping market has grown year after year and is now projected to be worth $2.6 billion by 2025.
This article presents 4 benefits of rapid prototyping to product designers and engineers. But before we delve right into it, let’s briefly explain what rapid prototyping entails.
What is Rapid Prototyping?
Rapid prototyping is a process that allows you to quickly and efficiently fabricate a 3D computer-aided design (CAD) model of a physical assembly or part. It employs techniques such as 3D printing, CNC machining, injection molding, and urethane molding to create prototype parts.
The 4 Most Important Advantages of Rapid Prototyping
Advantage No. 1 Speed
The major advantage of rapid prototyping is speed. Rapid prototyping machines rely on 3D CAD models and computer instructions to create prototype parts. They eliminate the need for extensive manual setup and tooling, leading to a significant time reduction between the initial design stage and the fabrication of the final products.
What’s more, the time savings from the rapid prototyping process allows you to gain a competitive advantage since you can quickly bring new products to the market ahead of your competitors.
Advantage No. 2 Test a Full Range of Designs
The increased speed of fabrication that rapid prototyping offers has completely revolutionized the engineering design process. Product designers can now quickly test different complex designs that would be otherwise extremely difficult, costly, and time-intensive to produce using conventional machining techniques.
Through rapid prototyping tests, you can quickly understand the trade-offs between the function and aesthetic of a part. This then allows you to refine concepts, modify parts and create new features necessary for the part to function as desired.
Advantage No.3 Rapid Prototyping is Cost-Effective
3D printing, CNC machining, and other modern-day rapid prototyping processes are helping to reduce development costs, especially for small production runs. This is because automated manufacturing processes reduce wastes and the cost of operators. Additionally, they are compatible with a wide range of materials, so you don’t have to worry about developing special tools.
Advantage No. 4 Rapid Prototyping is Allowing Product Designers to Eliminate Risks
Every machined part or component has its risks; failure risk, financial risk, and compliance risk, among others. Because rapid prototyping allows you to see a design in hand before mass production, you get to mitigate the risk of costly and critical errors.
Some Disadvantages of Rapid Prototyping
Like with all other machining processes, rapid prototyping has its cons. Here are 2 disadvantages of rapid prototyping
#1 Rapid Prototyping Requires Skilled Labor
Although pretty much the whole rapid prototyping process is fully automated, there’s still a need for operators and technicians to program rapid prototyping machines and supervise the machining operations.
Only a few machine shops have highly experienced and skilled technicians capable of creating high-quality prototype parts exactly to your specification.
#2 Quality Control is Often Neglected
When product designers reach out to machine shops for rapid prototyping services, they usually want prototype parts to be produced within a limited period. To meet this deadline, most machine shops neglect quality control when creating prototypes.
In a small-scale production, the cost of this negligence would be negligible. But for complicated projects featuring many complex components, the cost of design failure is huge! You want to make sure you’re working with a reliable third-party rapid prototyping service provider.
Working with a Rapid Prototyping Service Provider
So, let’s say you’ve got a complex design and are looking to create prototype parts. Rapid prototyping makes sense due to the advantages we mentioned earlier. However, these advantages wouldn’t matter much if, after a few days, you receive low-quality and unusable parts from your third-party manufacturer.
That’s why it is essential to work with a machine shop that provides high-quality rapid prototyping services. Gensun Precision Machining has been a popular name in the manufacturing industry for nearly two decades, providing high-quality machining services. Learn more about Gensun Precision Machining’s rapid prototyping services.
While CNC machining has been around for decades serving many industries, the medical industry was among the slowest industries to adopt computer numerical control (CNC) technology.
Back in 1961, CNC machining was already gaining popularity in the aerospace and defense industry. Meanwhile, John Charnley (the father of hip replacement surgery) was still fabricating prostheses by himself using a manual lathe and bench tools. Thankfully, he made ground-breaking contributions to the medical field before anyone could question the precision and ergonomics of the artificial hips he was machining at the time.
Since that time, a lot has changed, and CNC machining is now at the forefront of machining technologies used in the medical industry. From machining medical parts to highly specialized lab automation components, the applications of CNC machines in the medical industry are near-endless.
This article covers 3 of the most common applications for CNC machining in the medical industry today.
3 Applications for CNC Medical Parts Manufacturing
A 3D rendering of a metal hip replacement
#1 Medical Implants
Like with any other piece of machined medical hardware, bodily implants, such as knee implants and hip replacements, require a high level of precision and accuracy. A slight mistake during manufacturing, and the life and well-being of the patient could be affected significantly.
CNC Swiss machines are helping to accurately craft patient-specific parts while achieving tolerances as small as 4μm. After receiving a request from an orthopedist, a CNC machine center creates a CAD model and recreates the body part through reverse engineering and CNC technology.
The medical industry requires these implants to be made of biocompatible materials, such as PEEK and titanium. These materials are challenging to machine — they generate excessive heat during machining, and coolants are often prohibited due to fear of contamination. CNC machines are helping to solve this challenge as they boast compatibility with a wide array of materials.
#2 Medical Instrument Machining
The medical industry also heavily relies on CNC machining to manufacture surgical instruments, such as tubes, blades, surgical scissors, biopsy, spacers, and other minimally invasive surgical tools.
And the reason for this heavy reliance on CNC machines is easy to understand.
The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently set out understandably strict requirements for the manufacture and use of surgical instruments and other medical devices. And CNC machining is among the most reliable machining technologies capable of meeting these standards.
While 3D printing also allows machine centers to meet these requirements, it’s not ideal for large production runs. CNC machines can create large volumes of identical medical instruments within hours, whereas 3D printing might take days (or even weeks) to complete.
#3 Electronic Medical Equipment
Many medical devices like MRI scanners, heart rate monitors, and X-ray machines feature thousands of CNC-machined electronic components. Examples include switches, buttons, and levers, as well as electronic housings and casings.
Unlike implants and surgical tools, these medical devices do not need to be biocompatible since they do not make direct contact with the patient’s internal systems. However, the manufacturing of these parts is still largely supervised and controlled by several regulatory bodies.
Non-compliance to the standards set by these regulatory bodies could attract hefty fines (or sometimes imprisonment) for the machine shop. There have also been cases where the medical professionals involved lost their medical licenses. As such, you must choose your medical device manufacturers wisely.
How to Choose a Machine Shop for Medical Precision Components
Gensun QC team member inspecting a precision part
So, let’s say you’ve come up with the design of a medical implant, instrument, or device and are ready to outsource manufacturing to a third-party machine shop. Here are two essential things you should look out for in a third-party manufacturer.
ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 Certifications are Essential
You want to make sure you’re working with a machine shop that meets the requirements of ISO 9001 and ISO 13485.
An ISO 9001 certified machine shop adheres strictly to statutory and regulatory requirements by ensuring high-quality machining services. ISO 13485 is an international standard that provides specifications for a quality management system for manufacturers of medical devices or instruments.
Look for Highly Experienced Engineers and Quality Control Experts
The machining industry is flooded with inexperienced CNC operators and technicians. And to make things worse, many machining centers lack a quality management system to inspect the medical parts being machined by these technicians.
You want to make sure you’re working with a machine shop that has highly experienced engineers, as well as CNC quality control experts. This will save you from the hassle of going through the product development phase twice.
Gensun Precision Machining is a leading provider of medical CNC machining services around the world. Backed by nearly two decades of CNC experience, we have a reputation for creating high-quality medical components using state-of-the-art CNC technology.
We have a team of highly experienced CNC technicians and quality control experts, and our facility is ISO 9001 and ISO 13485 certified. Tell us about your project today, and let us help you create medical precision parts exactly to your specification.
Anodized finishes for aluminum have been available for almost 100 years. Some of the first recorded cases of the material being used are from the early 1920s. Back then, manufacturers added the finish to seaplanes to prevent the damaging effects of saltwater.
Why choose an anodized finish for aluminum?
While its thermal conductivity is lower than regular aluminum, anodized aluminum offers several advantages. Mainly, it offers superior protection over wear and tear. That’s important since CNC machining is an investment that you’ll want to keep in operation.
What Is Anodizing?
Anodizing is a technique that alters the exterior chemistry of metals as well as other materials. The substance protects metal from:
• General damage
Furthermore, the protection technique can improve the look of your equipment, giving your facility a clean, healthy appearance. Anodizing also increases the durability of your equipment.
If you were to compare anodized aluminum to standard aluminum, anodized comes out on top when it comes to resisting deterioration. While neither material develops rust, both may deteriorate if exposed to air, salt, moisture or other elements that cause deterioration. However, anodized aluminum is more resistant to corrosion due to its thick oxide coating.
How to Anodize Aluminum
To anodize aluminum, essential standard aluminum is dipped and treated in an electrolyte chemical bath. Once submerged, an electric current is activated to elicit the chemical reaction that causes a thick oxide layer to develop over the standard aluminum.
The anodizing aluminum cost is about $100 a load if you’re going with a clear covering. You can expect to pay around $50 more a load if you order the load in a color.
A major benefit of anodized aluminum is that you can get it in different colors. Anodized aluminum colors include lime green, red, purple and orange. It also comes in more neutral shades like pewter, black and gray as well as plain tones like clear or nickel.
How Is the Color Added?
Anodized aluminum is dyed so that companies can make colorful products from aluminum. You cannot colorize standard aluminum because the product doesn’t support it. During the anodizing process, the material is subjected to sulfuric acid, which is the acid that triggers the oxide layer. This layer is porous, which means that it holds dye well.
Once the dye is added to the exterior of the product, it fills in the empty pores created by the chemical reaction. The surface is then sealed to keep the color intact. This process makes anodized colors especially durable. You won’t be able to scratch them to remove the color because the dye sinks deep into the surface. In fact, the only way to remove the color is to grind it off the substrate.
Does Anodized Aluminum Offer Good Lubrication?
While anodized aluminum is known for its durability, the substance also has superior lubrication over standard aluminum. Since the anodizing process forms deep pores, they also allow for excellent oil or film retention. Standard aluminum features a smooth exterior, which means that it cannot hold onto any lubricating oil or film.
What Are the Adhesive Properties of Anodized Aluminum?
Anodized aluminum provides a good adhesive surface for glue and paint primer. Like many of the other benefits, the deep pores are the reason for this benefit as well. Basically, the pores are holes that hold adhesive, liquid and primer substances. Anodized aluminum absorbs these substances, resulting in better adhesion.
Is Anodized Aluminum Easy to Maintain?
Products like CNC machining are used frequently. This means that they’ll suffer from wear and tear. When your machining features an anodized surface, a basic rinse or a cleaning with mild soap and water will generally restore the exterior to a like-new condition. This makes maintenance easy. If your equipment needs a bit more elbow grease, you can use a mildly abrasive cleanser without damaging the surface of the product.
Is Anodizing Healthy and Safe for People?
Anodizing aluminum is a process that is safe for human health. When a finish is anodized, it makes the exterior chemically stable. The finish won’t decompose, and nor is it toxic. Anodized aluminum resists heat to the melting temperature of aluminum, which is 1,221 degrees Fahrenheit. When aluminum is anodized, it works to strengthen the natural oxide process.
How Does Anodized Aluminum Impact the Environment?
Because it’s recyclable, aluminum has a positive impact on the environment. According to the Aluminum Association, about 75% of the aluminum that has been produced is still being used today. Furthermore, the anodizing process is eco-friendly and cheaper than paint and powder coatings.
The anodizing process improves aluminum, extending the life of the metal. While substances like paint and plating generally prevent a product from being recycled, anodizing is a recycle-neutral process.
Aluminum conducts electricity, and anodizing provides insulation. Together, the two substances can be merged into systems that use fewer materials and save energy. Aluminum can be used as a structural or conductive component, and when it’s been anodized, the chemical process insulates the interior of the product and adds longevity to the structure.
When products feature anodized aluminum, the physical design can be simplified. It can also decrease the amount of space and wiring needed for a product.
Keep in mind that the anodizing process is water-based and requires no VOCs. Along with this, there are no solvents or resins used during the process. If pigmentation is used during anodizing, then extremely small amounts of it are needed. To anodize aluminum, processors do not use halogenated hydrocarbons or other toxic organics. In most cases, the process does not create any hazardous waste.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Anodized Aluminum
Since anodized aluminum has a lower thermal conductivity, it may crack under temperatures of over 80 degrees Celsius. This makes it a bad option as a cooking surface. However, the benefits of anodized aluminum include increased product durability, aesthetic appeal and easy maintenance. At Gensun Precision Machining, we provide CNC milling and CNC turning services. We also provide a variety of finishing services to give your facility the look that you want. Contact us for more information today.
What makes a great precision milling machine shop?
This question must have crossed your mind if you’re looking to outsource the manufacturing of your products (or parts) to a third-party precision CNC machining company. Chances are, every manufacturer you contact tells you that they provide the best precision milling services in the world.
But you shouldn’t take their word for it. Instead, you want to make sure you’re asking them the right questions. Their response will help you determine if truly they are the best fit for your precision milling project.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five essential questions you need to ask every machine shop before doing business with them.
Question #1: What Certifications Do You Have?
This is one of the most important questions you must ask a machine shop. Top-tier machine shops are ISO 9001 certified, meaning that they adhere strictly to statutory and regulatory requirements by ensuring high-quality parts.
Another crucial certification you want to be sure the manufacturer has is ISO 14001. An ISO 14001 certified machine shop adheres to the requirements for an efficient environmental management system. They efficiently utilize your resources and reduce wastage, allowing you to drive down manufacturing costs.
You may also have to ask about specific certificates if you’re looking to create parts for specific industries. For example, if you want to fabricate parts that will be used in the medical industry, then you should opt for a manufacturer that meets all the requirements in ISO 13485.
Question #2: What Industries Do You Serve?
This may seem obvious, but most times, we tend to quickly outsource manufacturing to so-called precision machining companies without even asking if they can meet the requirements of the industries we serve.
Some industries demand extremely complex parts to be made from specialized engineering materials that are difficult to machine. A good example is the aerospace industry, where parts are complex, enormous, and made of specialty plastics, composites, and lightweight metal alloys. Only a few third-party machine shops can meet the strict requirements of the aerospace industry. (Related Post: CNC Machining Aerospace Parts: 5 Things You Need to Know).
The electronics industry demands miniaturized electronic parts with tolerances as small as 4μm. A slight mistake during machining, and you can be sure that the machined electronic component will be unusable for its intended purpose.
Question #3: What Type of Milling Equipment Do You Have?
Milling equipment comes in many varieties and with different capabilities. Conventional milling machines feature a cutting tool that rotates against the direction of the feed and relies on operators to control the cutting tool and machine the parts. In contrast, CNC milling machines operate independently through the use of computer numerical control (CNC) technology.
You want to be sure your third-party manufacturer will be utilizing CNC milling technology for your project. Not only will this ensure high-quality CNC machined parts, but it will also reduce labor costs and ensure consistency, especially if you’re looking to manufacture large volumes of identical parts.
Evidently, not all machine shops utilize CNC technology, but even among those that do, there are several types of CNC milling machines that can be used for your machining project. 2-,3-, and 4- axis CNC milling machines are suitable for machining parts having simple designs, whereas 5-axis machines are best suited for machining complex geometries.
Question #4: How Experienced are Your CNC Operators?
The majority of the product recall issues that arise in the machining industry are traced back to the level of expertise of the CNC operators, technicians, or engineers. You want a machine shop with highly qualified technicians capable of identifying design flaws, suggesting feasible design modifications, and fabricating high-quality parts.
Question #5: How Do You Manage Quality Control?
We can talk about certifications, milling equipment, and the level of expertise of the machine operators all day, but the quality of machined parts you’d be getting still depends on the quality management system your manufacturer has in place.
Gensun Precision Machining has been in business for nearly two decades serving companies in many industries across the globe. We provide high-quality CNC precision machining services, and our facility is ISO 9001:2015 and ISO: 14001:2015 certified.
Tell us about your project today, and our highly experienced engineers and quality control experts will ensure you get high-quality parts exactly to your specifications.
Have you recently come up with product designs and drawings for a new prototype, or do you need to manufacture a new part that requires machining? If so, you might decide to outsource your manufacturing to a third-party CNC machining service provider.
But when your third-party machine shop is on the other side of the globe, and you can’t be present to monitor part fabrication, how do you ensure high-quality machined parts?
This article covers everything you need to know about quality control in CNC machine shops. It will serve as a guide to help you quickly identify machine shops you should work with and those you must avoid.
#1 Certifications are Essential
When gathering information about any machining vendor you’re considering, you must first access the certifications they’ve obtained. A crucial certification you must look for is ISO 9001.
ISO 9001 is a standard that specifies the requirements for quality management systems. An ISO 9001 certified machine shop adheres strictly to statutory and regulatory requirements by ensuring high-quality machining services.
Once you verify that the machine shops’ certifications meet your requirements, you must then determine the type of CNC machining equipment they have in their facility.
#2 The Type of Machining Equipment Affects the Quality of Machined Parts
The type of CNC machines used to create prototype (or production) parts plays a significant role in the quality of parts you’ll receive. CNC machines come in many varieties and are typically classified by the number of axes they can operate within, for example, 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-axis CNC machines.
As one may imagine, 5-axis CNC machines are more advanced than 2-, 3-, and 4- axis CNC machines. They offer better relational accuracy, surface finish, and, more importantly, can machine complex shapes. Not all parts require 5-axis machining (like the one pictured above), but if a part is complex enough, it could be the ideal solution.
Third-party machining vendors that incorporate advanced CNC machining technology in their facility seek to ensure high-quality machined parts. But that’s not all you should look out for in a third-party machining vendor!
The quality of machined parts also largely depends on the level of expertise of the CNC operators that will be fabricating your parts.
#3 Quality CNC Machining Depends on the Technician Operating the Machine
There have been many horror stories of customers receiving low-quality and unusable CNC machined parts, even though the manufacturer boasted about certifications and state-of-the-art machining equipment. More often than not, these issues are traced back to the CNC machine operators.
The truth is that there is a skill gap for CNC machine operators. The machining market is flooded with operators who learned from the “school of hard knocks” and are prone to making the same machining mistakes repeatedly.
And to complicate matters, many machine shops lack a standard quality management system to inspect the parts being fabricated by their operators or technicians. You must steer clear of these types of vendors.
#4 Top-tier CNC Machine Shops Perform Three Types of Inspection
Top-tier machining shops typically carry out three types of inspections at different stages of the manufacturing project;
Inspection by the machine operator: here, the operator carries out various article inspections during (or immediately) after machining to identify tolerance problems. It involves using simple measuring tools such as go/no-go gauges and micrometers.
Inspection via in-process probing: describes an automated way of verifying key features and tolerances of a part during the CNC machining process using programmed probes. These probes automatically monitor the process and adjust work coordinates and cutting tools accordingly.
Inspection in the quality control (QC) department: it describes the inspection stage carried out on CNC machined parts by a team of quality control experts. These QC experts utilize height gages, microscopes, 2D projectors, micrometers, and coordinate measuring machines (CMM) to ensure that parts conform to the customers’ requirements. The picture above shows one of our QC team members at Gensun operating a CMM machine.
Gensun Precision Machining is a leading provider of high-quality CNC machining services. We have a complete quality management system in place, and our facility is ISO 9001:2015 certified for quality.
Tell us about your project today, and our highly experienced engineers and CNC quality control experts will ensure you receive high-quality machined parts.