On to Plastic Prototypes

Getting a part CNC Machined.

The prototype challenge brings us to a technique that most people do not have access to. It’s a great way to make a part that is very accurate and very strong since it’s made from a solid block of material.

CNC stands for computer numerically controlled. What it means is that the computer tells a milling (cutting) machine how to move the part around so that it cuts away what you don’t want and leaves the part.

Pros: Relatively inexpensive as long a the part is not too big or too complex

Cons: It requires that you have a CAD (computer aided design) model of the part you want to CNC machine. You design the part on the computer and the file you output is the input for the CNC.

Cost: For me this part would cost $137.00 for plastic. You have an array of materials to choose from so metal is also an option. Give the guys at ProtoLabs a shot.

Best for: Simple appearance models or proof of concept models because a detailed part would get very expensive

Tricks: Sorry, no tricks here. Learning to use CAD can be tough so it’s best to get help with that part.

Here’s the quote I got from proto labs firstcut service.

Here’s some more information from the ProtoLabs website.

Firstcut provides real CNC machined parts — FAST. Our subtractive rapid prototyping process combines traditional rapid prototyping with CNC machining to deliver the following advantages:

  • Speed — Get CNC machined parts at least as fast as you can get additive rapid prototypes.
  • Convenience — Firstcut brings the online quoting and ordering you expect from rapid prototyping to the CNC machining world.
  • Real material properties — Your parts are machined from real blocks of plastic and aluminum — not the “material like” materials used in additive rapid prototyping processes.
  • Improved surface finishes — CNC machining eliminates the stair stepping inherent in the additive process.

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