January 17th, 2023
In the first of our new series of articles, we’re going to look at how the design, visualization and prototyping process leads to the actual manufacturing stage.
So, let’s start big with the first piece and look at how 3D design and printing can be used in machinery manufacturing.
3D design has become the byword in the manufacturing world for the visualization of the production of custom CNC parts. This is particularly the case in machinery product manufacturing which demands high precision and accuracy in all its machining parts.
The machinery industry produces many different products such as engines, pumps and equipment used for logistics. These machines are commonly used in many major industrial sectors like agriculture, food manufacturing and medical to name a few.
But how do we get from the design stage to the actual manufacturing stage? In this article we aim to take a closer look.
Every great design starts as a vision of the designer but its then getting this idea to the physical stage that takes the work. 3D design or CAD (Computer Aided Design) software is used to take the design to the next level and get it from the drawing board to manufacture. A CAD package will allow the designer to visualise the final product without the need to physically make a prototype at this stage. This allows for tweaking out any errors or pitfalls that may occur further down the line.
The ultimate goal therefore is to design a workable 3D “model” of the product which will then be an exact representation of the final machine.
The design can both focus on individual parts of the machine but also create a digital model of the finished machinery which will show how it operates. Once the designer and manufacturer are happy with the design the next stage is to produce a prototype model.
Prototyping is something that can be done “in house” but is now often undertaken by external specialist providers. Such providers will have the knowledge and machining capabilities to make quality prototypes precisely from the original design. CNC machining is most commonly used in the fabrication of prototypes but the use of 3D printing technology is making the prototyping process much easier.
Both of these have similar properties, so let’s look at each individually.
The use of CNC machining to produce any prototype will give you a detailed and high precision result. The key component is the use of multiple axis technology which will allow the machine to make far more intricate designs.
As it’s a milling process, this means that there is a fair amount of waste material produced as the cutter needs to shape the block of material. This may be a consideration for the future manufacture of the finished item but shouldn’t be a worry at the prototyping stage.
The best CNC mill for machinery prototypes would need to be a multiple axis machine and these typically will have five axes. However, there may be the need to expand on this if the shape and construct of the machine part for instance is more complex. This would then lend itself to using a prototyping service as previously mentioned where the cost of having your own machine will probably outweigh the need.
3D printing has taken a massive leap forward in the last few years and is used both in manufacturing and home environments. Obviously, when it comes to prototyping at this level, we’re not talking about the basic 3D printer that a hobbyist might use but something that can produce more detail and quality every time.
There are two main types of 3D printing, FDM and SLA (resin) and a combination of the two may be the way to go with prototyping. For instance, an FDM printer uses plastic filament so would be better suited to the bigger and less complex parts of the machine prototype. An SLA printer will be more adept at producing the fine detail that may be needed for the detailed or the smaller components of the machine.
Prototyping, 3D Printing and CNC Machining Services
As we’ve said, prototyping can be done by the designers and manufacturers but the inherent cost of having a CNC milling machine on board is then a major consideration for manufacturers. However, outsourcing the prototyping to a professional and accurate CNC machining or 3D printing service may be the way to go for a high-quality item that you can take to market.
These services will have the latest CNC and 3D Printing technology at their disposal so there’s no limit to what they can produce and will work closely with the designer and manufacturer to get the desired results. They will therefore be able to make both the prototype and then the final machine part to a high degree of accuracy and to the exact design.
Prototype to machine
Once the prototype has been produced and approved, the next stage is obviously to get the machine in production.
Again, the same manufacturing processes may be employed as were for the prototyping as both CNC machining and 3D printing are now commonly used in the machinery manufacturing industry. As we’ve mentioned though, the use of accurate and professional CNC machining services would still be the way to go with getting the machine to its final finished state.
A CNC machine will do most of the work in this case as we’re looking at high-precision moving parts predominately made from metal. These machines were originally designed to fabricate metal so are ideal for the job.
However, as we’ve said, 3D printing is becoming more commonly used and may be employed in this scenario to make some of the smaller parts of machinery or indeed some of the housings. Examples of this would be switches and switch boxes, control panel housings and cabling and circuitry housings.
This has just been a brief overview of the basic process of 3D Design and Visualization in Machinery Products Manufacturing but hopefully it will give you an idea of the basic processes involved.
The advent of 3D design software and CNC machining has literally revolutionized the machinery industry and made production much simpler. The ability to visualize the design in 3D before even getting to a physical model is invaluable. Add to this the ability to use multiple technologies such as CNC machining and 3D printing and you’re onto a winning formula.
The use of a dedicated 3D printing service to make your prototypes or indeed, the machine parts themselves, will streamline the manufacturing process and allow you to get the product up and running much more quickly.
Politech is one of these services and we can offer a quality and professional prototyping service based on whatever your design needs may be. We use the most up to date 3D printing technology to produce high quality and dimensionally accurate prototypes to your exact specifications.
Now that you've read this article, why not check out our other blogs and also look at the services that Politech can offer by viewing the rest of the site. Thank you for reading!