Another speedy and realistic option for functional rapid prototyping is with CNC routing. This technology uses a variety of tools to carve out a 3D model from a solid block of material. Software drives the manufacturing process and is offering the chance to cost-effectively rapid prototyping of ever increasing sophistication.
Compared to 3D printing CNC machining offers greater potential for threads and undercuts, tight tolerances, larger prototypes and more surface finishes. Depending on the complexity of the plastic prototype model and the manufacturing service used, CNC machining can also provide extremely quick turnaround times.
While producing injection moulding tooling for a small volume of plastic prototypes is generally too expensive, CNC machining allows the same level of form testing, fit and function of injection moulded parts without the expense of producing injection mould tooling. There are a wide range of plastics that can be used to create a rapid plastic prototype using CNC machining: these include ABS, PC, PP, POM, PMMA (Acrylic), HDPE, PEEK etc.
Advantages of CNC machining for rapid prototyping
When rapid plastic prototyping is required, there are a many advantages that CNC machining holds over 3D printing technology. These include
- greater mechanical quality
- fast turnaround
- more complex shapes and design
- improved structural integrity – typically, this production method is used to create plastic prototypes that will be tested under the same conditions as injection moulded parts
- wider range of thermoplastic materials. Parts that are CNC machined also bestow improved structural integrity upon plastic parts, which is essential when creating functional prototypes.
The methods for rapid prototyping are increasing – offering greater cost-effectiveness and sophistication.