Learn About the Steps Involved in CNC Rapid Prototyping

Rapid prototyping is the process of generating or manufacturing a dummy product to test the functionality, and chances of failure before final production. Rapid prototyping can be done by using various methods. Digital CAD/CAM prototypes, fabricated functional prototypes, 3D printed prototypes, CNC machined prototypes are a few popular ways of rapid prototyping. Out of all the methods, CNC rapid prototyping is quite a popular method for developing rapid prototypes in both dummy and functional types. The process of CNC rapid prototyping is commonly referred to as CNC-RP. The CNC rapid prototyping is highly popular due to the precision, dimensional stability, and consistent quality. However, to accomplish high-quality CNC-RP, it is essential to follow the process meticulously. This post discusses the steps involved in CNC-RP in order to get optimum prototyping results.

Step-by-step Process of CNC Rapid Prototyping (CNC-RP)

The steps involved in the process of CNC-RP are as follows.

  • Design Ideations:

    Design ideation is the primary step involved in rapid prototyping. In this step, the product designers or product engineers create multiple possible designs for the product. These ideations may include dimensioning and positioning of features, design for manufacturing and assembly (DFMA), design for testing (DFT), etc. Once all the ideations are created, some of the efficient designs are taken forward to the next step.

  • Generation of 3D Files:

    CNC production relies on 3D files such as CAD designs. Therefore, the selected design/designs are converted into a 3D file. The 3D files define all dimensions, features, and aesthetical specifications of the final product.

  • Identification of Production Sequence:

    Once the 3D file is generated, the machining process to generate each feature is identified. Along with this, the sequence of manufacturing steps is decided to manufacture the prototype employing a seamless CNC machining cycle. Various manufacturing processes such as CNC routing, CNC turning, CNC cutting, CNC milling, CNC drilling, etc may be involved in CNC-machined prototype production.

  • CNC Programing:

    The sequence of CNC production processes and tool operating instructions are given to the CNC machine using the CNC program. The programs include G-codes and M-codes that instruct the CNC machine which tool to choose, travel time and distance of the tool, feed rate, cutting depth, etc. All the instructions are embedded in the CNC program which allows automation of CNC rapid prototyping based on the production requirements.

  • Note: The programing process includes calculations for feed rates, cutting depths, number of runs, distance of tool travel, etc. The calculated values are inserted into the G-codes or M-codes to create a CNC program.

  • Production (Prototyping):

    Once the CNC program is ready, it is set in the numeric control panel of the CNC machine. Once the workpiece is mounted on the tool, and the machine is set in operation mode, the seamless CNC machining process takes place. As a result of multiple CNC machining processes done on the workpiece, the prototype of the desired product is achieved. The prototype can be a dummy or full-functional look-alike-work-alike.

  • Note: For some fully functioning prototypes, different parts are manufactured individually with CNC machining, and then assembled. This step is additional for the prototypes that include mechanical linkages, interconnected components, etc.

  • Testing:

    Testing is the final and most important step of CNC rapid prototyping. The ultimate goal of rapid prototyping is to test the functionality of the desired product and to check for errors and scope of failure. Therefore, the CNC prototypes are then tested for functionality, defects, durability, and performance overall.

Once the CNC prototype is tested and approved by product experts, the final product goes for production. In case the prototype fails to satisfy original requirements, the second-best ideation of the prototype is chosen and CNC machined to check for the same aspects.

Since CNC rapid prototyping is quite a strategic process and requires skilled staff for process identification, CNC programming, and CNC operations, it is better to source these services from the experts. BDE, Inc is a company that offers high-end precision CNC machining services for industrial products. CNC rapid prototyping is one of their prominent services. Their services include part optimization, appropriate material selection, and precision CNC production of prototypes.

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