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If you are to manufacture a metal mockup, do you prefer 3D printing or CNC prototyping? Are you struggling to decide between these two prototyping methods as they both have their unique advantages and limitations? Well, this article is making strong points on why you should first consider 3D printing instead of going directly forward CNC machining.
Brief Knowledge about 3D Printing and CNC Prototyping
CNC machining was developed from NC machining in the mid-20th century. Since then, it has been an important part of metal manufacturing, especially for precision metal manufacturing. However, in recent years, 3D printing has gone through rapid development, constantly challenging the position of CNC prototyping or machining in the manufacturing industry.
Before metal 3D printing became a feasible manufacturing method, the option for manufacturers in many industries like aerospace, automotive, die & mold to create mockups or parts was limited to CNC machining. But at present, using metal 3D printing technology to make metal mockup has gone the mainstream due to its ability to quickly print metal mockup. Designers thus can make fast design iteration to constant test and improve their designs, promoting the successful new product development.
The fact that metal 3D printing offers a significant reduction in cost and time makes it become increasingly critical for many industries. For example, in the aerospace sector, Airbus began to print metal mockup using the 3D printing process in 2014. For industries that are in constant pursuit of weight reduction in components, 3D printing is the ideal solution. However, CNC machining is also worth considering in some cases, such as when tight tolerance required. Here is a blog specifying the detailed differences between 3D printing and CNC machining>>>3D Printing Rapid Prototyping Services vs. Precision CNC Machining Services.
Reasons to 3D Print Metal Mockup
1. Save Time - Hours or Days Rather Than Weeks
One of the most obvious advantages of metal 3D rapid prototyping is that you can go from design to finished products more quickly. No specific tools are required. A printer can get most of the work done well. 3D printing enables lead time to be down to days. For example, in the automotive industry, a lightweight suspension wishbone can be designed and manufactured from titanium in only a week.
No matter what metal mockup to print, metal 3D printing means many of the time-consuming and complex processes such as computer programming in CNC prototyping are eliminated or optimized. In addition, the 3D printing's reduced downtime, faster routes from design to production, and improved production flexibility also add up to overall time-saving. When speed-to-market is essential to your business, 3D printing can be a preferred option than CNC machining.
2. Save Money - Build Up Instead of Cutting Down
In CNC machining, the materials you need to start with the production are much more than that actually end up in the finished mockups or parts. Sometimes, even unnecessary material is added to improve manufacturability or avoid geometric complexity. The material cost in CNC prototyping can be huge. Besides, the subsequent waste treatment also adds to overall cost - metal scrap should be properly removed, transported and recycled. All these costs will be reflected in the high price of the machined metal mockup.
However, when you print metal mockup, you only use material where needed. Material waste is minimal, not only saving money but also protecting the environment. The efficient use of materials in 3D printing also has other knock-on effects. For example, it enables leaner production and weight reduction in components. The weight reduction has a significant impact on the actual performance of parts. In the aerospace industry, the reduction of every gram brings overwhelming benefits. You should know that sending 1kg into orbit currently could cost tens of thousands of dollars.
3. Do More - Fewer Design Limitations
Some complex geometric structures are expensive, difficult or impossible to create by CNC machining. But with metal 3D printing, it can be feasible and economical. You can print metal mockup with intricate internal structures, channels, and lattices. You can also create external surface textures as well as topographies.
Previously without metal 3D printing, when designers designed their mockups, they had to take into account the limitations of CNC machines. With well-developing 3D printing of today, designers can let their designs follow function, to design the mockup or part that they need it to be instead of being suitable for machining tools. Such freedom in design allows designers to create shapes or structures that are impossible or too expensive to make by CNC prototyping. With 3D printing, designers can also finalize the new product design through quick iterations. The great potential of this prototyping or manufacturing method can significantly promote innovations in many industries.
Now, Get Started to Print Metal Mockup!
Whether you are a manufacturer or designer, the above advantage of using a 3D printing method to print metal mockup can lend you many great competitive edges. It has shaken up the previous metal mockup manufacturing world dominated by CNC prototyping. It makes the small-batch, on-demand, and mass-customized production more economical. Now, get started to create metal mockups to promote design innovation, new product development, and build competitive edges. Don’t know how to get started? This blog may help>>>A Prototype Factory’s Guide for Rapid Metal Prototyping.
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