Inventors and small businesses often use prototypes to test products prior to full-scale production runs. It’s a great way to save costs and fine-tune parts and products. However, it’s one of the most challenging stages of the product development lifecycle. At QT Manufacturing, we provide comprehensive support for your prototype development. We can help you decide on materials, production techniques, and any required redesign work. With a few thoughtful insights, you can make your prototyping more productive and successful.
CNC Machining vs. 3D Printing Considerations
Your team will have to decide whether to go with CNC machining or 3D printing for the prototype. 3D printing uses additive manufacturing techniques and has become very popular in recent years, especially for prototypes. It lets you program three-dimensional objects by layering material to achieve the desired shape.
It’s considered additive because the process doesn’t start with a template or block that’s reduced through cutting or shaping it. Instead, additional layers are added until you create a finished part. With some parts, you can 3D print the entire product or print parts that you can assemble separately. Materials for 3D printing include resins and thermoplastics. However, metal 3D-printed parts are becoming more common. In some cases, it might make sense to print prototypes from wood.
Advantages of 3D printing include freedom of shape, range of available materials, and the speed and low cost of manufacturing. While 3D printers are user-friendly, the process doesn’t become faster if you want to scale production. Therefore, while it might make sense to use 3D printing for your prototype, you’ll need to consider how to transition to more robust manufacturing processes for long-term production.
CNC machining starts with a block of material that is milled, cut, or shaped into your prototype or component. This is referred to as subtractive manufacturing. There are several types of CNC machines available to create prototypes and finished products. These include mills, grinders, and lathes. Products often require multiple machines, which means you’ll spend more time configuring CNC machinery than 3D printers for prototypes. However, CNC manufacturing is easier to scale for larger runs than 3D printing.
Metal, thermoplastics, wood, and acrylic materials are often used in CNC machining. Keep in mind that CNC machining typically generates more waste due to its subtractive manufacturing techniques.
Shipping and Packaging Prototypes
Besides determining a manufacturing process, you also need to consider the most efficient way to get your prototype and finalized products to manufacturers and customers. This is one of the most important considerations you will make. By selecting an established manufacturer, you can avoid many pitfalls that often occur with less experienced companies.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to start over if the prototype becomes damaged in transit. Therefore, we recommend dealing with high-caliber manufacturers, such as QT Manufacturing, that will ensure your prototype is handled with the required care and delicacy. This can help you avoid wasting valuable time and resources.
Our team can formulate a plan to ship and pack your valuable prototype safely. Starting with the right materials can reduce the risk of shipping damage. Additionally, using the right filler materials and box size can prevent shifting and rolling that could damage your prototype.
Feel free to browse our brochure to get an idea of the parts we have already created for other businesses. Our team excels at prototyping services, and we’ll work with you every step of the way from testing to redesign to pre-production.
Iteration is another essential part of the prototyping process. You need to work with a manufacturer willing to pay attention to the small details so that you can make the most of each stage of prototype development. For example, our team can help you collect data and analyze it properly to predict the outcome of future production around this.
Top Prototyping Strategies
Businesses have more options than ever when it comes to the prototype manufacturing process. Different projects may require different methods for prototype manufacturing. CNC machining and 3D printing are both useful techniques, but they have their advantages and disadvantages. 3D printing is often more suitable for small volumes and less demanding material specifications, while CNC machining can offer more precision and durability. During the prototype manufacturing process, businesses should also collect data that can help them improve their decisions in the future.At QT Manufacturing, all prototypes are made in the USA, making it convenient to ship them within the continental US and beyond. Contact us today to set up a free demonstration.