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Process of Rapid prototyping services by CNC machining In China

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The rapid development of the market and increasing competition are driving exponential growth in the demand for rapid prototyping services in the industrial design industry. Rapid prototyping has become a vital component of the design process, playing a pivotal role in showcasing goods and securing market appeal. As a result, the rapid prototyping industry has emerged as a distinct and thriving sector, capturing the attention of both the market and users.

Relevant statistics indicate that there are currently over 200,000 practitioners in the rapid prototyping industry in China, primarily concentrated in the economically vibrant regions of the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta, and the Bohai Sea. Many industry experts affirm that the rapid prototyping services industry can be rightfully hailed as the future sunrise industry. This recognition stems from the industry’s inherent advantages. Firstly, China’s robust economic growth fuels a substantial market demand. Secondly, the shift of traditional enterprises towards intelligent and information-driven technologies has led to increased investments in product development, consequently fostering rapid advancements within the rapid prototyping sector.

Now, let’s explore the prevalent process methods utilized in the rapid prototyping industry in China, along with their respective procedures. This information can prove invaluable if you ever collaborate with a manufacturing factory in China, offering insights and assistance in your endeavors.

Rapid prototyping services employ various common methods to facilitate the efficient production of prototypes. These methods utilize advanced technologies to quickly transform digital designs into tangible physical models. In China, the rapid prototyping market is dominated by several popular services, which collectively hold a significant share of over 95%. Among these, CNC machining stands out as the most widely utilized process.

CNC machining

CNC machining is a typical rapid prototyping process known for its precision and versatility. Industries such as 3C, mold manufacturing, and the medical industry widely use it. CNC-produced prototypes accurately reflect design information and boast high surface quality, particularly when enhanced with surface treatments. This process suits products with specific material requirements, larger sizes, and demanding precision. CNC machines come in various configurations to accommodate complex part designs.

3D printing

3D printing is a key technology in rapid prototyping services. It creates three-dimensional objects by layering materials based on digital designs. It offers fast and cost-effective production, eliminates the need for molds, and allows for intricate designs and material options. 3D printing accelerates the prototyping process and enables quick iterations and modifications.

The vacuum casting

The vacuum casting process involves debubbling, mixing, injection of material under vacuum, and curing in a constant temperature oven. It allows for the production of imitation products with strength and hardness comparable to ABS. It offers cost and time savings for small-batch production with complex structures. The materials used include ABS, PC, PP, soft rubber, PMMA, nylon, and PVC. However, the process has limitations such as mold durability, surface imperfections, and lower product accuracy.

Process of Rapid prototyping services In CNC Machining

When discussing the process, it is vital to consider two aspects: the process of availing rapid prototyping services from a Chinese company and the specific processes involved in each rapid prototyping service(during CNC processing). Therefore, I will explain two parts, addressing both meanings of the process.

The general process of Rapid prototyping service providers after receiving an order

1. CNC Programming

Programming is the first crucial step in rapid prototyping production. Engineers thoroughly review the drawings and create a program tailored to the product’s specific requirements. The CNC milling paths, tool types, and processing speeds are carefully determined to maintain the product’s appearance and functionality.

2. CNC Processing

Operators at the CNC machining center receive the programmed instructions and select the materials and tools for the machining process.

3. Manual Processing

After CNC processing, the surface may have residual burrs that require manual removal. Certain areas with right angles also need manual refinement using specialized tools. This manual processing ensures that the product is clean and fits together seamlessly.

Manual Processing In Rapid Prototyping Services
Manual Processing In Rapid Prototyping Services

4. Grinding and Polishing

CNC machining leaves knife marks on the product’s surface, manually polished by skilled professionals. They carefully analyze the 3D drawing file and focus on enhancing the product’s angles, lines, and gaps.

5. Spray Painting and Screen Printing

One of the significant advantages of CNC-produced prototypes is that their surface finish resembles that of mass-produced items. The products are sprayed with customer-provided color plates or custom-blended colors and then baked in an oven. Depending on the material and paint used, different baking times are required. They apply UV coating for protection and aesthetics. Other surface treatment options may include electroplating, screen printing, laser engraving, and oxidation.

6. Finished Product Assembly

Assembling the rapid prototyping products is essential, ensuring all components are complete and properly aligned. The 3D drawing files and process instructions provided by the customer serve as references during the assembly process. They pay attention to the product’s assembly relationships and the fit between parts.

7. Quality Inspection

Before shipment, all rapid prototyping products undergo thorough quality inspection. Quality control is maintained at each step of the production process to ensure timely delivery and customer satisfaction.

Process of CNC processing by a cylinder machining case

The process of CNC processing by a cylinder machining case from a Chinese rapid prototyping service provider may give you a quicker understanding of the process.

1. Roughing the Whole Piece: Begin by roughing the entire piece of aluminum, ensuring the cylindrical shape is maintained.

2-1. Securing the Bracket Plate: Use locking screws to secure the bracket plate from the bottom, ensuring stability during machining.

2-2. Finishing the Bottom Surface and Rounded Corners: Perform fine processing on the bottom surface and rounded corners of the rapid prototyping product, achieving the desired shape and smoothness.

2-3. Rough Positioning: draw a circle on the surface, providing a rough positioning reference for subsequent operations.

2-4. Cylinder Attachment: Apply AB glue to affix the cylinder onto the bottom surface, ensuring it is securely attached.

3-1. Locking the Bracket Plate: Utilize a five-axis locking mechanism to secure the bracket plate, ensuring stability during further machining operations.

3-2. Cylinder Milling: Perform milling operations on the cylinder, shaping it according to the desired specifications.

3-3. Surface Finishing and Side Drilling: Conduct fine processing on the surface of the rapid prototyping product, ensuring a smooth finish, and perform necessary drilling operations on the sides as required.

What do you need to do when cooperating with a Chinese rapid prototyping services provider?

From the customer’s perspective, here are some essential points to note about enjoying rapid prototyping services:

Clear Communication

Effective communication with the rapid prototyping service provider is crucial. Clearly communicate your requirements, specifications, and expectations for the prototype. Provide comprehensive and accurate design files, drawings, and other information to ensure a smooth process.

Collaboration and Feedback

Collaborate closely with the rapid prototyping service provider throughout the process. Provide feedback, ask questions, and seek clarification when needed. Actively engage in discussions about design improvements, feasibility, and any potential challenges to ensure the best possible outcome.

Material Selection

Understand the available material options for rapid prototyping and choose the one that best suits your product’s requirements. Consider factors such as strength, durability, appearance, and cost when making material decisions.

Timeframe and Deadlines

Communicate your timeline and project deadlines to the rapid prototyping service provider. Discuss turnaround times, production schedules, and any specific time constraints. Establish realistic expectations and align both parties on project timelines.

Quality Assurance

Discuss quality control measures with the service provider. Inquire about their quality assurance processes, inspection procedures, and certifications. Understand how they ensure the accuracy, precision, and overall quality of the final prototype.

Cost and Budget

Discuss pricing and cost considerations upfront. Understand the pricing structure, any additional fees or charges, and payment terms. Maintain a clear understanding of the budget for the rapid prototyping project and ensure that it aligns with your financial capabilities.

Intellectual Property Protection

Address intellectual property concerns and confidentiality agreements with the rapid prototyping service provider. Ensure you protect your designs, data, and proprietary information throughout the process.

Customer Support and After-Sales Service

Inquire about customer support, post-production assistance, and warranty policies. Understand the level of support provided after completing the rapid prototyping project and how they will address potential issues or concerns.

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