How to Achieve Faster Rapid Prototype Machining
Time is money…even more so in rapid prototype machining. A faster rapid prototype machining process is important for bringing a design to reality and getting your products to market quickly. In the consumer electronics industry, time is crucial for beating the fierce competition and releasing the newest products to buyers. While making usable parts, the prototyping process also allows for testing and evaluating a design and its iterations. Many of our customers use DATRON CNC mills for prototyping, so we know the challenges you face. To help you become more agile and speed up your rapid prototype machining process, we came up with these three setup tips.
1. Standardizing Stock Sizes for Rapid Prototyping
How many times have you stood next to a rack of material and measured blanks to find the correct size stock for your part? One way to get past this is to have standard stock sizes kept in inventory and a library of those sizes saved in your CAM program. If you work with a dozen or so standard sizes, you just load the blank on your machine and select the CAM program that will fit that material to the part’s required size. Personally, we’d rather add a few extra roughing passes to mill down material than waste time searching, programming, and cutting all different stocks to size for every job.
2. Part Probing for Rapid Prototype Machining
Touch probes significantly save on setup time. Take a DATRON CNC machine for example, the 3D probing function lets you program probe cycles to find edges to set your zero points. Those machines’ control software will even rotate your program to match the stock that was probed (in case the material was put crookedly on the machine bed). Say you needed to put a part back on a machine to adjust a feature. With a probe, you could quickly touch off on a known location, reset your origin, and knock out that adjustment.
3D probing can speed up rapid prototype machining in many ways as shown in this video.
3. Optimizing Your CAM for Rapid Prototyping
How many parts do you make where you’re always using the same machining techniques? Rough, drill, finish pass, etc. There’s a way to leverage your CAM system for those cases. Most CAM software has an option called feature-based machining. This option looks at the solid design model and defines features that will be machined. Then based on the defined feature, the software selects the corresponding toolpath strategies to mill it. Feature-based machining might not be ideal in all situations, but it will significantly reduce your programming time, even if you have to tweak a few parameters.
These three steps save you valuable setup time and improve your rapid prototyping process. We have personally seen these tips help take a solid design file to a metal prototype part in a matter of minutes. Being able to design, machine, test, edit, and repeat in a day offers significant advantages for prototyping parts. DATRON Dynamics, Inc. (headquartered in New Hampshire with a California office located in the tech-savvy bay area), has been helping start-ups to Fortune 500s get their machined 3D prototypes to the market first! If you are interested in seeing how DATRON can get bring your design to life, schedule a demo with us.