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How Does Prototype Machining Work?


Prototype machining services involve the following steps:

  1. Design – The first step in prototype machining is the design process. Blitz will work with you to create a 3D CAD model of the part or component, if your company does not have a finalized design for the part you want to prototype. This model will be used to guide the machining process. Eight steps to creating a new prototype design for CNC machining:

    1. Identify Design Requirements: Start by clearly defining the requirements and objectives of the prototype. Determine the functional, performance, and aesthetic criteria that the prototype must meet, as well as any specific material or manufacturing constraints.

    2. Select Suitable Materials: Choose materials that are compatible with machining processes and meet the desired mechanical properties, surface finish requirements, and cost considerations. Consider factors such as material availability, machinability, and performance characteristics when selecting materials for the prototype.

    3. Create 3D CAD Models: Use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create detailed 3D models of the prototype parts. Design the parts with the final product in mind, incorporating all necessary features, dimensions, tolerances, and assembly requirements. Pay attention to design for manufacturability (DFM) principles to ensure that the parts can be machined efficiently and accurately.

    4. Consider Machining Constraints: Take into account the capabilities and limitations of machining processes when designing the prototype. Consider factors such as tool access, cutting tool diameter, minimum feature size, and surface finish requirements. Design parts with features that can be machined using standard machining operations without requiring specialized tooling or processes.

    5. Optimize Geometry: Simplify the geometry of the prototype parts where possible to reduce machining complexity and minimize production costs. Avoid overly complex features, sharp internal corners, thin walls, or intricate details that may be difficult or costly to machine. Optimize part orientation and toolpath strategies to improve machining efficiency and accuracy.

    6. Tolerance Analysis: Define appropriate tolerances for each part based on functional requirements, material properties, and machining capabilities. Consider factors such as dimensional accuracy, fit and clearance, surface finish, and assembly requirements when specifying tolerances. Ensure that tolerances are realistic and achievable within the capabilities of the machining processes and selected materials.

    7. Prototype Iteration and Testing: After designing the prototype parts, create prototypes using machining processes such as CNC milling, turning, drilling, or grinding. Evaluate the prototypes through testing, validation, and iteration to verify functionality, performance, and fit. Use feedback from prototype testing to refine the design and make necessary adjustments before proceeding to production.

    8. Documentation and Communication: Document the design specifications, manufacturing instructions, and quality requirements for the prototype parts. Communicate effectively with machinists, engineers, and stakeholders to ensure a clear understanding of the design intent and manufacturing requirements. Provide detailed drawings, CAD files, and other relevant information to facilitate the machining process and ensure the accurate production of prototype parts.

2. Material Selection – Once the design is complete, the company will select the material that they want to use for the prototype. This can vary depending on the specific needs of the part or component. Common materials used for prototyping include metals, plastics, and composites.  Ten things to consider when choosing the right material for your prototyped part:

    1. Define Prototype Requirements: Start by clearly defining the requirements and objectives of the prototype. Determine the functional, mechanical, thermal, and environmental conditions the prototype will be subjected to, as well as any specific material properties or characteristics it must possess.

    2. Consider Machinability: Evaluate the machinability of different materials to ensure compatibility with the chosen machining processes. Consider factors such as ease of cutting, milling, drilling, turning, and surface finish quality. Choose materials that can be machined efficiently and accurately without excessive tool wear or processing difficulties.

    3. Evaluate Mechanical Properties: Assess the mechanical properties required for the prototype based on its intended application and performance criteria. Consider factors such as strength, stiffness, hardness, toughness, and wear resistance. Select materials that offer the necessary mechanical properties to ensure the prototype performs as intended under expected loading and operating conditions.

    4. Review Thermal and Chemical Properties: Consider the thermal and chemical properties of candidate materials, especially if the prototype will be exposed to high temperatures, corrosive environments, or chemical exposure. Choose materials with suitable thermal stability, chemical resistance, and compatibility with the prototype’s operating environment to prevent degradation or failure.

    5. Balance Cost and Budget: Evaluate the cost-effectiveness of different materials based on factors such as material cost, machining expenses, waste generation, and post-processing requirements. Balance the desired material properties with the overall project budget to optimize cost-effectiveness and affordability without compromising performance or quality.

    6. Assess Material Availability: Consider the availability and lead time of candidate materials, especially if tight project deadlines or production schedules must be met. Choose materials that can be readily sourced from suppliers and machined within the required timeframe to avoid delays in the prototyping process.

    7. Explore Material Options: Research and explore a variety of material options that meet the prototype’s requirements and constraints. Consider common engineering materials such as metals (e.g., aluminum, steel, titanium), plastics (e.g., ABS, acrylic, nylon), and composites (e.g., carbon fiber, fiberglass) to identify suitable candidates for the prototype.

    8. Consult with Experts: Seek advice and guidance from materials experts, machinists, engineers, and suppliers to help evaluate material options and make informed decisions. Consider factors such as material availability, machinability, performance characteristics, and cost when consulting with experts to select the best material for your machined prototype.

    9. Perform Material Testing: Conduct material testing and evaluation to verify performance, compatibility, and suitability for the prototype’s requirements. Test material samples for mechanical properties, dimensional stability, surface finish, and other relevant characteristics to ensure they meet the specified criteria.

    10. Iterate and Refine: Iterate on the material selection process as needed based on testing results, feedback from stakeholders, or changes in project requirements. Refine the material selection criteria and explore alternative options until the best material for the machined prototype is identified and chosen.

  1. Machining – With the design and material selection complete, the actual machining process can begin. Prototype machining typically involves the use of CNC machines (Computer Numerical Control). These machines use computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software to control the machining process, which involves cutting, drilling, and shaping the raw material into the desired part or component.

  2. Quality Control – As the part or component is being machined, it is important to ensure that it meets the required specifications and tolerances. Quality control measures, such as inspection and testing, are performed throughout the machining process to ensure that the prototype is accurate and precise.  Please let us know if your facility has specific compliance requirements so we can provide appropriate documentation if needed.

  3. Finishing – Once the machining is complete, the prototype may require finishing, such as sanding, polishing, or painting. This helps to improve the appearance and functionality of the prototype. We can help you choose the appropriate finishing technique for your intended use.  You may also choose to compare options in order to get the look and feel you desire.

  4. Testing and Validation – With the prototype complete, you can be test and validate to ensure that it meets your required specifications and functions. Any issues or design flaws that are identified during testing can be addressed and incorporated into future design iterations.  We will always provide you with the original design files for your prototyped part.

Prototype machining services involve a detailed process of design, material selection, machining, quality control, finishing, and testing. Blitz Proto follows these steps to create accurate and functional prototypes you can be use for testing, validation, and implementation.