The Jiga Resource Center

Learn about custom manufacturing, processes of 3D printing, CNC machining and sheet metal, supply chain trends, tips and insights. Our resource center contains useful content for you to work on your product and get parts produced effectively.

 

Recent posts
Rapid manufacturing is used to produce whole parts, custom products, and low volume production needs. It is also used to produce bridge production items

Businesses that are steadily growing and need the best possible solutions for delivering products to consumers benefit from rapid manufacturing.

It is a great way to cut down costs and reserve resources that are typically pouring into traditional manufacturing.

But what exactly is rapid manufacturing and how does it work? In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about it. We’ll compare other common processes and weigh the benefits and disadvantages of switching to this type of production.

What is Rapid Manufacturing?

It refers to the various manufacturing processes that are used to produce whole parts, custom products, and low volume production needs. It is also used to produce bridge production items in some cases.

In many cases, traditional manufacturing uses tools and machinery that are very expensive and take extended periods of time to produce an end product. Some common examples of traditional manufacturing include injection molding, forming, and joining. 

On the other hand, rapid manufacturing makes it possible to produce simple to very complex parts and products. But, for significantly less money and less time spent by using software automation and modern technology. The result is efficient, inexpensive, and speedy delivery of completed products.

Rapid Manufacturing vs Rapid Prototyping

Rapid prototyping involves the process of fabricating models of a part or product through computer-aided design. The data from CAD is three-dimensional and can be used to quickly produce a prototype through forms of rapid manufacturing.

Rapid manufacturing and rapid prototyping are not mutually exclusive. In fact, rapid manufacturing is used for the process of rapid prototyping. Prototypes were actually the main production use case for rapid manufacturing at its first conception. Now, rapid manufacturing is used for creating whole end-user parts and products, not just prototyping.

Still, rapid prototyping is a must-have process to have in place for startups or businesses that constantly develop and redesign their products. This type of prototyping involves the creation of prototypes via CAD data by engineers. 

RP is very fast and makes it easy to execute revisions and redesigns. Many organizations will use this process with sturdy materials that come at a cost decrease to continuously produce prototypes to experiment and test with. It has a great turnaround time for completed products.

Read about our guide in choosing the right rapid prototyping process for you here

Rapid Manufacturing vs Additive Manufacturing

Rapid manufacturing and additive manufacturing rely on one another. All processes of rapid manufacturing rely on the implementation of additive manufacturing (also known as AM) processes in order to make new parts and products. 

Using additive manufacturing technology makes it very easy to create customized items through the use of a CAD model. This is done by adding multiple layers of product until the product is complete. The end result is a fully functioning product or prototype that can be shipped to customers or tested for ongoing redesigns and additional prototyping processes.

Additive manufacturing can be used with a wide range of materials. But, is a particularly popular manufacturing choice for metal parts and plastic-based products and parts. Additive manufacturing makes it possible for designers as well as engineers to generate extremely complex designs. Such designs would be extremely expensive if created via conventional manufacturing methods.

This type of manufacturing is perfect for so many different types of engineering. AM is also great for reducing overall costs when compared to conventional manufacturing. Additive manufacturing is also a popular way to engage in fast prototyping.

Rapid Manufacturing vs Traditional or Conventional Manufacturing

By far the biggest differences between rapid manufacturing and traditional manufacturing come down to cost and time. 

Traditional manufacturing processes are quite outdated and can take quite a long time to complete. These can be a major downfall for businesses who want to deliver top-notch products to their customers in a timely manner, notably faster than their competitors. 

Just as well, businesses that are involved in prototyping need their “test” products produced and delivered to their companies for ongoing prototyping and redesigning in a timely manner. With rapid manufacturing, the use of new technologies makes the production and manufacturing process much faster.

When it comes to cost, these two types of manufacturing differ significantly. The materials used for rapid manufacturing and additive manufacturing are often low-cost. The application of these materials during the manufacturing process requires less labor as well. Traditional engineering requires quite a substantial workforce to keep things going. The cost to keep up older machinery can also tack on more costs to the customer as well.

Several years ago, rapid manufacturing was typically only reserved for prototyping specifically. As the manufacturing industry is evolving towards more technologically advanced tools and machines, rapid engineering is becoming the norm. It’s quick, efficient, and cost-effective in production of parts and whole end products. 

It’s also worth noting that both rapid manufacturing and traditional manufacturing can be used together, depending on your specific use case. While rapid manufacturing is better suited for prototyping, small-batch productions, and custom parts, traditional manufacturing can sometimes be an excellent choice for large-scale production and high-volume parts.

Common Use Cases for Rapid Manufacturing

One might be surprised by all of the potential use cases for rapid manufacturing that span a wealth of industries.

Rapid manufacturing can significantly reduce your resource consumption. Any business owner knows that stick to a budget is vital when it comes to reserving resources and company capital. Traditional manufacturing can be extremely expensive, and the end result can take weeks or months to complete.

With rapid manufacturing, specifically through the application of 3D printing and other types of additive manufacturing, the total volume of materials, time spent manufacturing, cost of professionals needed to complete production, and overall resources are reduced significantly. This is extremely valuable for businesses that are just starting up and may not have the resources in place to invest in costly and time-consuming conventional manufacturing.

When it comes to the prototyping process, many businesses out there need to have products delivered quickly for testing and redesigning. This is especially so for businesses in the medical technology and machinery sectors. With such an intense demand for accurate prototype production delivered in a timely manner, no other form of production can meet the time crunch as rapid manufacturing can.

Another major use case for rapid engineering is the fulfillment of functional products. From vehicle parts to medical devices to other types of machinery, the functional aspects of those products must be perfectly manufacturing. Rapid manufacturing, especially 3D printing, can be performed with additional functionalities and materials in mind to ensure that the end product functions as efficiently as possible. When it comes to developing top-notch performance, rapid manufacturing can be used to improve performance as well as differentiation.

Types of Rapid Manufacturing Process

There are many types of rapid manufacturing that could benefit businesses in a variety of industries.

CNC Machining

This process uses the latest technology to assist businesses with their manufacturing needs. The use of software automation in this process allows for the production of high quality, high precision parts quickly.

Computer numerical control tools, or CNC tools, is a blanket term for any type of subtractive manufacturing process. Materials start as solid chunks of material, such as metal plastic, etc. These chunks of metal are shaped into the end part or product via the removal of material through grinding, sanding, cutting, and drilling.

CNC machining involves using tools that have some sort of rotating platform and a fixated cutting device. One popular type is laser cutting, which uses a laser to cut through hard materials with impeccable precision. Water jet laser cutters and milling machines are also popular types.

This method is a great option for a wide range of materials that might make up your products. These include the aforementioned metals and plastics, as well as wood, stone, glass, composite mixtures, acrylic materials, and extremely hard metals. 

3D Printing

3D printing has seen a serious renaissance in the last decade. The technologies that make 3D printing possible are only continuing to evolve. This additive manufacturing is a process that involves melting and rearranging thermoplastic filaments via a printing device. Essentially, layers of material are laid down from top to bottom until the finished product is complete.

This type of rapid manufacturing involves almost exclusively plastics. But, a variety of different plastics can be used, such as ABS, PLA, and a number of different thermoplastic blends. However, there are other types of 3D printing that uses metals.

Some of the most common type of 3D Printing are Stereolithography (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Selective Laser Melting (SLM), and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)

Popular with hobby 3D printing artists and industrial companies alike, 3D printing has a wide range of use cases.

Injection Molding

Injection molding process is usually used to produce parts in very large volumes or mass production. Typically, injection molding is used when the same part needs to be made over and over in succession using molds. This could create hundreds, thousands, or millions of identical parts that are relatively simple in complexity.

This method involves heating up the material (usually plastic or metal) until it is in a liquid form. The machine’s nozzle is then inserted into the product molds where the material is injected directly into the shape of the produce. Using injection pressure, the molds are filled with the liquid and then is flash-cooled or left to sit for a moment to let the material re-solidify in the shape of the product. This can be done very, very quickly.

Metal Fabrication

Metal fabrication involves building products, parts, and even machines through with metal-based materials. This type of rapid manufacturing involves the automated use of a variety of processes, including cutting, welding, forming, and machining. 

Typically, metal fabrication is used for creating heavy-duty products as well as small functioning components for parts.

How Do You Choose From Different Manufacturing Processes?

This is a decision that should be made with your designers, engineers, and product design team. Ultimately, your choice will come down to CNC machining, 3D printing, injection molding, and metal fabrication.

CNC machining is ideal if you need a relatively small number of metal parts that are very solid with only a couple of precise incisions that cover the surface of the part. 3D printing, alternatively, is the best possible choice for producing plastic parts that require any form of internal latticed patterns.

Injection molding via rapid manufacturing is ideally used for mass production. If you need to create one single part millions of times one after another with little in the way of complexity, injection molding is the way to go. 

Metal fabrication is a little more flexible. This method of rapid production can be used to mass-produce parts and products, but it can just as well be used to manufacture custom fabricated metal items.

Ultimately, it would be best to brainstorm the best course of action with your relevant teams to ensure that the best possible choice is made.

The Benefits of Rapid Manufacturing

So what are the benefits of rapid manufacturing? There are many, but here are a few of them:

Fast and flexible production. 

A lot of the products that are produced through rapid manufacturing do not require any tooling or molds. This allows for a much faster production time. It also means that you can quickly change your designs to fit consumer demand. For example, if one style is more popular than another, you can switch out your inventory at lightning speed to offer more of the popular style and less of the unpopular.

It’s easier to explore different concepts during prototyping in a speedy manner. Thorough testing and refining of concepts can be done quicker.

By working with a rapid manufacturing company, you’ll be able to communicate a wide range of concepts easily and more effectively. Since rapid manufacturing is a very customizable process, it’s vital to ensure that your designs are made identical right down to the millimeter.

Time and cost efficiencies improve.

One can repeatedly design and incorporate new changes for the purpose of testing new aspects of a product with speed and ease. This is very important in product development for startups that have very narrow deadlines.

You won’t need quite as much inventory in-house. The need for premade parts for replacements is virtually eliminated with speedy production capabilities. To put it simply, the process of manufacturing replacement parts can be done in a few days rather than a few weeks. This is especially the case if you’re outsourcing your production needs to a third-party rapid manufacturing company.

Design flaws can be reduced or eliminated.

The design process is streamlined and focused on specific goals rather than the traditional creative methods that occurs with conventional manufacturing techniques.

Rapid manufacturing is known for using very high-resolution machines to produce exact details. This means there might be fewer flaws or defects in your finished product.

An early prototype will allow for the detection of anomalies and flaws at an earlier stage, which allows a design to be perfected prior to full-scale production.

Overall product quality is improved with less waste material.

Rapid manufacturing enables designers to get their design “just right” before having the number of parts increased, so there’s less wasted material, and 100 percent accuracy in duplicating parts.

You can also produce more consistent end products because of the tight tolerances that are involved.

In-House or Outsource?

There are a number of advantages to having an in-house rapid manufacturing department.

Unfortunately, the costs of hiring an in-house team and purchasing your own equipment can be very expensive. Not only will you have to purchase the equipment and technology needed, but you’ll also need to pay for employee salaries, benefits, onboarding, etc.

Rapid manufacturing is almost always less expensive than traditional manufacturing, but hiring an in-house team could set you back a bit.

Just as well, outsourcing to a third-party company can significantly accelerate how long it takes to get your product to your market. Turnaround times are usually very fast with any form of rapid engineering, but a third-party company can usually take about three days to return models to their clients. A majority of delays that come with product manufacturing come down to the type of manufacturing used and how well-organized and efficient the team doing the manufacturing is.

With an outsourced rapid manufacturing company, this process is virtually guaranteed to come from fast and efficient workforces. They could help you with some design tips, the best manufacturing process and right material for your project.

Hiring your own team might be tricky and not everyone on your team might be a good fit from the initial development of your rapid manufacturing department.

Not sure where to start when it comes to finding an excellent company to outsource your rapid manufacturing needs to? Jiga is here to help.

Rapid Manufacturing with Jiga

Jiga is a B2B marketplace for custom parts manufacturing, including 3D printing, CNC machining, and sheet metal. Our goal at Jiga is to make the process of purchasing custom parts or products as easy as possible.

The Jiga Marketplace puts you in touch with experienced rapid manufacturing experts who can help you pick the right manufacturing process for your prototype. 

You’ll receive expert feedback on your order, without needing to place one first.

We’ll hold your money in escrow to make sure that you only pay for the parts you receive. 

With Jiga, you can quickly and efficiently nail down your rapid prototyping manufacturing needs. We can help you get back on with bringing a game changing product to market.

Book a demo with us today to find out how!

rapid metal manufacturing
Rapid Prototyping process, gets an idea off the ground fast! The decision on which process to choose will differ.

Rapid prototyping process is one way that you can test out new ideas without making any long-term commitments or spending too much money upfront. With this process, you get an idea off the ground within weeks instead of months or years!

Additive and subtractive manufacturing has increased the usefulness of rapid prototyping technology. This has further lowered the cost and time it takes to make a prototype.

In this article, we listed the different manufacturing processes best suited to rapid prototyping. We also defined their advantages and disadvantages. Furthermore, we highlighted how to choose the best rapid prototyping method for each product development process.

The Rapid Prototyping Processes

At its most basic, rapid prototyping is an iterative and incremental design process that takes advantage of the ability to quickly prototype and test products. It uses CAD (computer aided design) models and data to create the physical product.

That test information is rolled over into the next iteration of the design until all of the important features are in place and any identified issues are resolved.

Rapid Prototyping in the Product Development Process
Prototyping in the Product Development Process

One of the rapid prototyping advantages is that it can be used to bring products quickly through the design and testing phase while still accurately identifying and resolving problems.

However, in order to work effectively, it relies, as you might expect, on the ability to rapidly create prototypes. Computer aided design and manufacturing (CAD/CAM) tools allow new products to be designed, built quickly, tested, and repair if needed.

To achieve that, there are a number of processes that are used in modern rapid prototyping, each with their own pros and cons.

There are a range of metal and plastic prototyping processes and we’ll be breaking down some of the most common and what their benefits and potential drawbacks are:

Stereolithography

Stereolithography, is also known as SLA or resin 3D printing. This additive manufacturing process that uses UV-curable photopolymer resin suspended in a vat above a LED screen or laser projector. 

The 3D design of the prototypes is projected onto the screen, or traced out by the laser, in layers. The UV light emitted by the screen or laser hardens the UV-curable photopolymer resin. 

Depending on the type of printer, the hardened layer is then lowered or raised so more resin is between the hardened layer and the UV source and the process is repeated, creating the object in thousands of individual layers adhered to each other.

Pros

SLA 3d printing can be used to create resin prototypes with intricate internal and external geometries as long as the part is properly internally and externally supported.

The finished product produced by an SLA printer has a far finer finish than other forms of 3D printing; it takes very little to get a newly printed and cured resin prototype to a commercial finish.

Modern SLA 3D printing is hugely economical.

Cutting edge SLA printing methods, such as Azul’s HARP, can produce large volume prints in a very short amount of time.

Cons

While flexible and damage resistant resins are on the market, resin SLA prints are normally relatively fragile and prone to breakage. 

This makes the process better suited to creation proof of concept or display models, rather than testing or engineering prototypes.

Certain UV-curable photopolymer resins will degrade if exposed to large amounts of UV light or high levels of humidity.

Selective Laser Sintering

Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) is another additive manufacturing method. It uses the sintering process, which means “to become a coherent mass by heating without melting” to fuse together layers of a powdered material using a computer-controlled CO2 laser.

Once a layer has been fused together, a roller then deposits a layer of powdered material over the sintering bed and the process begins again. 

Using the SLS 3d printing process, manufacturers can produce both large build volumes and objects with complex geometries.

Pros

The sintering process and the rigid nylon or elastomeric TPU powders commonly used in SLS printing create parts that are far more durable than SLA printing.

Parts printed by Selective Laser Sintering SLS can have the same complex internal and external geometries as SLA prints.

Cons

Because they are formed of fused powder, prototypes produced by SLS printing often have a grainy sandy finish.

Because the powdered material needs to be heated before the sintering process begins, and heated powder can’t be reused, the process is comparatively wasteful.

Direct Metal Laser Sintering

Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) uses a very similar process to SLS in which a laser is used to draw out a layered pattern onto atomized metal powder. 

The powder fuses into a layer, then more powder is placed layer by layer to fused to the first. 

DMLS process can be used with most metals and alloys and is some of the few additive manufacturing technology that can be used to create full-strength, functional testing prototypes that are constructed from the same material as the final product. 

Pros

DMLS can produce 97 percent dense, engineering-grade prototypes which can be tested as if they were the end product.

The process works with a wide range of metals and allows.

Unlike SLS, the headed metal powder can be reused, making it less wasteful.

Cons

Out of all the AM processes, DMLS is comparatively expensive and slow.

Selective Laser Melting

Selective Laser Melting (SLM), also known as Powder Bed Fusion (PBF) is similar to DMLS, but rather than sintering the powdered material together, SLM suses a electron beam or high-powder laser to actually melt the layers into the powder.

This results in a faster process, because it can be done at far higher temperatures than low temperature sintering, and more robust parts.

Pros

SLM can be used on almost any powdered material that can be melted. These include aluminum, stainless steel, copper, titanium, and cobalt chrome alloys.

The SLM process produces high-strength multifaceted prototypes. These are commonly used in the automotive, medical, defense, and aerospace industries. 

Cons

SLM is an energy-intensive process in which parts can become stressed and dislocated, jeopardizing their structural integrity.

SLM also requires the use of inert gas for its source materials which must have good flow characteristics but not be single-component metals or any specified material with poor flow qualities such as polymers, ceramics, glasses etc..

Fused Deposition Modeling

Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) is one of the most common types of additive manufacturing technology. 

FDM printers use a heated print head that extrudes filaments of thermoplastic resin, commonly ABS or PLA or some combination of the two.

Because the process uses heat to melt together thermoplastic resins, the parts tend to be a good mix of durable. Therefore, parts produced are testable and cost-effective. 

Pros

Fused Deposition Modelling printing can make use of a range of thermoplastic resins.

Modern FDM printers can use multiple print heads to make prototypes from combinations of thermoplastics.

With proper support, the FDM process can make objects with complex geometries. 

Cons

The primary issue with FDM printing is that the finished product has a rough finish with visible deposition lines. Additional post processing needs to be used to get these prototypes to an acceptable finish.

Polyjet

The Polyjet process uses fine sprays of photopolymer resin that are hardened into distinct layers using a UV light. 

Because of the very fine sprayed layer by layer, this printing process can produce results with high levels of resolution.

During the printing process, the part is supported in a gel matrix which is removed after the process is complete. 

Pros

The Polyjet process can be used to create elastomeric parts with rubber-like properties.

Prototypes can be printed in multiple colors. 

Over molded parts can be printed with complex geometries.

The Polyjet printing process is moderately cost-effective.

Cons

Parts have limited strength, around as durable as SLA, and are not useful for functional testing.

Because of its specificity, Polyjet manufacturing isn’t able to offer any insight into the end product manufacturing stage.

Laminated Object Manufacturing

Laminated Object Manufacturing technology is a 3D printing method that originally developed by Helisys Inc. There are many materials that can be laminated, but paper is the most common. Paper gets glued together layer by layer using adhesive-coated sheets to create a finished product.

Pros

LOM machines are useful for rapid prototyping.

Can be used to make prototypes that you might not use in the end.

Have a low price and quick production time which makes them perfect for making models quickly!

Cons

You won’t get as much detail or accuracy with Laminated Object Manufacturing. It is incapable of printing intricate geometries like lasers sintering or stereolithography.

Computer Numerically Controlled Machining

Computer Numerically Controlled Machining (CNC) is a subtractive process that uses milling tools or a lathe to cut a design from a block of material, known as a workpiece. 

CNC machining is generally used to create plastic or metal prototypes that need to be significantly stress tested and constructed of the same materials used in the final product. 

This process is most commonly used in the automotive and aerospace industries where small machine parts need to be developed and rigorously tested to make sure they can survive under working tolerances.

Because it is not an additive manufacturing method, CNC machining can be used to make prototypes from a huge range of objects, from plastics to metals, that cannot be 3D printed.

Pros

CNC machining can be used to produce prototypes from a huge range of materials, some of which cannot be used in other manufacturing processes.

The parts produced by CNC machining are of a high quality finish.

This process can produce prototypes from the material to be used in the end product. Furthermore, the end product can be thoroughly tested under working conditions.

The process is relatively fast.

Cons

While CNC machining shops do use four and five-axis machining rigs, there are some geometry limitations to what can be constructed and undercuts can be difficult to mill.

The machinery used in CNC milling is often cost prohibitive to own in-house.

Rapid Injection Molding

Rapid Injection Molding (RIM) uses exactly the same process as traditional injection molding, injecting pressurized liquid thermoplastic resins into a specific mold. 

What sets this process apart from traditional injection molding is that the mold is often made from aluminum instead of steel.

The aluminum molds are faster to make than the steel molds used in end-product production, but wear out faster.  

Almost any liquid silicone rubber (LSR) or engineering-grade plastic can be used in injection molding. It is considered to be the industry standard for the manufacturing of plastic parts.

Injection molding is also the primary way of producing living hinges, because of the specific alignment of the molecules caused by liquid polypropylene being injected into a low thickness mold. 

Pros

RIM can be used to make prototypes from engineering-grade materials. This makes it an ideal process for making prototypes to be tested.

The finish on injection molded products is almost the same as the commercial end product will be.

Prototypes produced by RIM can be used as predictors of potential manufacturability.

Cons

Requires the tooling of molds, which is both an initial cost not found in 3D printing or CNC machining.

This adds to the length of lead in time.

How Do You Choose Which Rapid Prototyping Process to Use?

There are a number of different types of prototypes based on fidelity and the stage of development.

To make this clearer, we’ve listed the five most common types of custom prototypes. Also, we added their required primary attributes and which rapid prototype processes can be matched up with it.

TYPE DEFINITION PRIMARY ATTRIBUTES BEST RP PROCESS
Concept prototype Primarily used to demonstrate a particular product, either internal or as part of sales pitch. Handy for design teams to actually hold a physical version of their design and gain insights that aren’t available from a 3D design. Ideally needs to have an end-product finish and the same geometries as the 3D design, all these don’t need to be 100% accurate. If large numbers of prototypes are needed, then cost-effectiveness and speed are also important. SLA, Polyjet, and SLS printing are ideal for concept prototyping as they are low-cost processes with good resolution and objects can be printed rapidly.
Assembly prototype If the prototype is made from multiple parts or needs to fit into other complex components, then this type of prototype will be used to check for precise fitting and highlight any design errors. Because of this, the assembly prototype needs to be exact in its geometries. Needs to be made to exacting geometric tolerances and ideally out of the same material as the final product. Depending on the end production material, CNC machining, SLA printing, and rapid injection molding can be used to create assembly prototypes.
Testing prototype Used to make sure that a certain part can stand up to the working tolerances and resist the stresses it is expected to take during its working. Most testing prototypes are made from metals, engineering-grade plastics, and other durable materials. Needs to be made from the same material as the end product and need to be durable enough to withstand working stresses. CNC machining, DMLS, SLM, and injection molding are the primary rapid prototyping manufacturing processes used to create prototypes durable enough to work as testing prototypes.
Life test prototype Designed to test how the properties of a given material change over time the potential lifetime of a given product. These tests often include subjecting a prototype to extreme versions of expected conditions. Needs to have exactly the same dimensions and be constructed from the same materials as the proposed end product to make life testing useful. Because the geometries and materials are more important than the finish in a life test prototype, nearly all of the rapid prototyping manufacturing processes can be used to create one. However, there may be some geometric considerations that will make some processes, such as CNC machining and injection molding less suited to making certain prototypes.
Compliance prototype Used to test a design for its compliance with the rules set out by certain regulatory bodies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Agency (FDA), International Standard Organization (ISO), Canadian Standards Association (CSA), and European Commission (EC). Needs to be as close to the finished product as possible to demonstrate that the proposed end product meets compliance requirements. Almost any rapid prototyping manufacturing processes can be used to create compliance prototypes.

However, since they need to mirror the finished product, processes like SLS and Polyjet are less suited than others.

Let Jiga Help You Make the Right Rapid Prototyping Choice 

The Jiga Marketplace puts you in touch with experienced manufacturing and rapid prototyping experts who can help you pick the right manufacturing process for your prototype. 

You’ll receive expert feedback on your order, without needing to place one first.

We’ll hold your money in escrow to make sure that you only pay for the parts you receive. 

With Jiga, you can quickly and efficiently nail down your rapid prototyping manufacturing needs. We can help you get back on with bringing a game changing product to market.

Book a demo with us today to find out how!

jiga rapid prototype part
CNC prototyping is a popular way to produce prototypes for many industries. It allows for rapid iteration of design in response to feedback from testing.

Custom manufacturing allows businesses to outsource their products without having to worry about the quality or timeliness of production. This process gives businesses freedom from production and allows manufacturers to concentrate on quality.

This article will explore what custom manufacturing is and why it’s such an important aspect of the engineering world. We’ll also take a look at some different examples to get you thinking about how this could be applied to your own work.

Custom Manufacturing Definition

Several decades ago, if a company wanted to manufacture its product it had only two options.

The first option was for the business enterprise to build its product onsite, which is usually an expensive and time consuming process. The second option was to outsource the manufacturing of a business’s products to a third party company or organization.

However, outsourcing products can be risky. Businesses must have a close relationship with their manufacturer so that production problems can be quickly resolved.

Luckily, many manufacturers have found a solid balance between building in-house and outsourcing products to third parties by utilizing the option of custom manufacturing.

Custom Manufacturing is when you explore the benefits of manufacturing custom parts as opposed to off-the-shelf products. With this type of manufacturing, you are not limited with standard sizes and can significantly reduce lead times by choosing some of the processes that were originally developed for rapid prototypes to create final production molds.

What is the Difference Between Custom Manufacturing and Mass Production?

Mass production (or just “production”) is a production method that uses large quantities of raw materials to produce large quantities of goods as fast as possible. In contrast, custom manufacturing or manufacturability engineering is a more streamlined and efficient process aimed at supplying smaller quantities in shorter timeframes. 

In addition to the quantity of material, custom manufacturing is also characterized by the variety and specificity of these products. On a larger scale, mass production requires more time, manpower, space and materials than custom manufacturing.

Another difference between the two is that mass production has a production line. Manufacturing facilities are set up in such a way as to be able to produce large quantities of goods with minimal person-to-person contact. This translates into an assembly line so people can build products without having to wait around for parts, materials and other people to complete the process.

While custom manufacturing uses production areas in a similar way, it uses less machines or equipment and has fewer people working in the production area. This is because it is all about helping customers build customized products based exactly on what they need for their specific needs.

Types of Custom Manufacturing

Custom manufacturing is typically broken down into two categories: prototype and production.

Prototype

The first type is known as “prototype” or mock-up manufacturing.

This service involves making a model or sample of something (a machine part, for example) that needs to be tested, analyzed or modified so that it can be utilized in a project. Sometimes manufacturers use prototypes as a type of marketing tool to show prospective customers what they’re capable of making.

Custom manufacturers may also create mock-ups for parts that are very large or have odd shapes, like airplane wings. The final product requires a lot of resources and time to fabricate, so it’s better to test it out with a prototype before proceeding with the actual design.

Custom manufacturing can produce rapid prototypes in a variety of forms. For instance, they can create a 3D model, which is the most common way to make rapid prototypes. 3D models in this case are possible because of the availability of 3D printers and scanners.

Production

The second category of custom manufacturing is known as “production” or “serial production” manufacturing. This is the process by which a company produces large quantities of a product, usually for commercial purposes.

For example, automobile companies sometimes use serial production to build cars in such high numbers that they can sell them at affordable prices and still make a profit. They also need customized products in small quantities for old model year vehicles.

Production Process of Custom Manufacturing

Custom manufacturing can be processed in one or two ways: Subtractive and/or Additive manufacturing.

Subtractive Manufacturing

Customization is an important part of the process. The subtractive manufacturing process requires less labor and time than other methods because it removes material from a workpiece, rather than adding material as with additive manufacturing or forging. Therefore, it is very cost-effective for companies and beneficial for their bottom line.

Other benefits of subtractive manufacturing are its ability to provide clean surfaces without the need for polishing or grinding and its ability to make parts with holes that will have smoother edges than those made by other processes.

It is very cost-efficient for companies to go with this form of manufacturing. Subtractive manufacturing enables companies to produce parts that are difficult to manufacture using other methods and it offers better surfaces than those produced by other processes. One major advantage is the ability to make holes in the parts that will have smoother edges than those of parts manufactured by other methods.

Here are the various techniques in subtractive manufacturing and their application in different industries:

  • CNC machining (milling, turning, boring, drilling, reaming)
  • Plasma cutting
  • Water jet cutting
  • Electric discharge machining (EDM)

 

Additive Manufacturing

Additive manufacturing is used in custom manufacturing to enhance upon the benefits of mass production. Unlike subtractive manufacturing, which begins with a solid block and takes away material to create less complex objects from that block, additive manufacturing starts with nothing and gradually creates more complex objects, adding material as it goes.

Plus Additive Manufacturing uses CAD Model drawings or files from 3d printing software programs to guide the production process. It’s really an example of reverse engineering when you think about it.

The main benefit of additive manufacturing is the ability to create customized products. This is done by making a CAD model in 3D modeling software, which guides the production process. The benefits also include fine-tuning and making changes to a design that would be too difficult or expensive with other methods.

If you were to take a plastic part and make it from scratch, you would need to start with some sort of mold to create the shape. Those molds are expensive and can only be used once. Additive manufacturing allows for a near unlimited number of unique parts to be made while still using the same machine.

Here are the various techniques in additive manufacturing and their application in different industries:

Why Companies Use Custom Manufacturing Solutions For Production

Many organizations are using custom manufacturing solutions to meet the production needs of their commercial projects. Here are some reasons why:

1. Custom made products

Custom manufacturing allows for greater customization of the product. This means that your product is going to be built according to the exact specifications of the client. Plus, the quality can also be improved through custom manufacturing.

2. Improved productivity

Custom manufacturing provides significant improvements in productivity over using prefabricated parts and components due to its ability to create accurate and quality parts and components without any wastage or errors incurred during production.

3. Greater accuracy

Custom manufacturing solutions are more accurate than most other production methods because there is no waste and it can produce customized parts and components that will not have any discrepancies in size or shape when compared with other products.

4. Lower unit costs

It can be more cost-effective than mass production, depending on the company’s needs. Often, the cost of production can be 50 to 75 percent lower than units produced through mass production.

5. Lower lead time

The design process is faster and easier with custom manufacturing because there are fewer steps involved in making a custom product. There is also no need to wait for any pre-made parts or components. Hence, companies can get access to improved production and a shorter lead time.

6. Better Quality Control

With custom manufacturing, you can create and monitor the production process on a regular basis. This makes it extremely easy for you to identify and rectify defects immediately. This is particularly useful if you are producing a high-end product that must meet specific quality criteria.

7. Better product design

There are no limitations when it comes to materials or technologies used in custom manufacturing when compared with other forms of manufacturing. This allows for a wider range of new and improved products to be created, which can help in the creation of the next best thing in the market.

8. More sales

Allowing end users to customize their own products will make them feel more invested in purchasing your product and improve their loyalty to your company.

9. A competitive edge

Custom manufacturing allows you to gain a competitive edge over other companies that are mass producing products. This is because custom manufacturing allows you to outperform them due to the higher quality of the product, shorter lead time and lower unit costs.

How do I find a Manufacturer for my Project?

It can be difficult to find a manufacturer to custom manufacture parts. The main challenge is that the industry lacks quality manufacturers due to the rapidly expanding need for such services. This is only going to become more difficult with time because the lack of attention and investment in the profession will cause it to deteriorate in quality.

Manufacturing professionals must have a strong background in both mechanical and CAD drafting as well as good interpersonal skills. They should also be able to estimate accurately the amount of labor required for each task and know how long it will take.

Supplier relationship management is another challenge. Therefore, you should look for a manufacturer that has been in business for some time and is willing to work with your company on a long-term basis. You should also look for someone who is honest and able to provide you with the highest quality parts at the most competitive price.

Many manufacturers lack the skills or experience to create customized products, which is why businesses are turning to Jiga’s marketplace for quality suppliers that can custom manufacture these high-quality parts.

The number of suppliers on the marketplace is growing everyday due to the demand for such services. Suppliers must meet strict guidelines in order to be accepted onto the site, and they are inspected before posting for any examples of poor quality workmanship.

This means that you will find only reliable, affordable producers of high-quality custom components and parts on the site. All of our suppliers also have excellent customer service ratings so you

These are some of the services that Jiga provides:

– Instant manufacturing quotes for custom parts that match your needs;

– Worldwide manufacturing options, including from high-tech companies in China;

– One stop shop access to CNC machining, injection molding, 3D printing, packaging and logistics;

– Premium customer service for any questions about manufacturers or product requirements;

– Integrated payments for ordering faster and easier

Conclusion

Custom manufacturing is a great way to produce custom parts for your product or business. The benefits of this process include greater customization, improved productivity, better quality control and design that can lead to more sales and competitive edge in the market.

It might be hard to find the right manufacturer but Jiga’s marketplace has vetted suppliers that are able to provide these high-quality products at affordable prices with shorter delivery times than you would get if you tried it yourself. Trying out our service is easy–click below to book a demo!

Custom manufacturing a prototype
CNC prototyping is a popular way to produce prototypes for many industries. It allows for rapid iteration of design in response to feedback from testing.

CNC machining is a popular way to produce prototypes for many industries. Machinists use CNC prototyping when the design of an object needs tweaking before it reaches the mass production stage.

It can be used to correct any problems that crop up during manufacturing, and this is key in reducing setbacks.

CNC machining can be used as a standalone solution or partnered with other processes like 3D printing to create different iterations of one prototype at relatively low costs compared to traditional prototyping methods such as injection molding, which usually takes over 100 hours just for initial setup!

In today’s article, we’ll be examining how CNC machining can be a foundational part of the rapid prototyping process

What Is CNC Machining?

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining is a manufacturing system that uses a combination of computer inputs and computer controlled machining tools.

The parts needed are designed using Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. Those CAD designs are then translated into a series of instructions that can be understood by the computer controlled machining tools.

These instructions are often referred to as G-code. Once the G-code is running, the CNC process requires little or no oversight. It is also capable of producing prototype parts to very exact specifications.

CNC machining is a subtractive manufacturing process. This means that computer controlled machining tools remove material from a block of material, known as the workpiece

CNC machines themselves vary in their levels of complexity. The more axes a machine has, the more complicated a geometry it can cut into the workpiece.

Is CNC machining good for prototyping?

As with all rapid prototyping processes, CNC prototyping is an effective solution to certain problems.

Generally, additive manufacturing methods, such as 3D printing, are more commonly used in rapid prototyping, for reasons that we’ve written a whole article about rapid prototyping with 3D printing here..

As a rule, rapid prototypes fall into one of two categories. 

The first is a looks-like prototype. These prototypes are used as display models, proofs of concept, or as a physical object that drives the R&D process. 

3D printing is an excellent manufacturing solution for these prototypes as it can produce new design iterations very rapidly. These models are not generally placed under stress, so the fragility of most additive manufacturing options isn’t a problem.

The second kind of prototype is the engineering or production prototype. These are designed to be functional and therefore placed under stress. 

These prototypes are used to test characteristics like part strength and mechanical stability. These are constructed from materials not commonly available in additive manufacturing processes.

As an example, the design for a valve might be 3D printed as a proof of concept piece. But then, a second engineering prototype might be milled from the proposed production material using CNC machining services. The purpose is to actively test it under working conditions.

The Rapid Prototyping Process with CNC Machining

Rapid prototyping is first conceptualised into the 1970s in response to advances in manufacturing technology. It represents a solution to the bottlenecking of the design process that traditional prototyping represented.

RP allows designers to experiment with a physical model without having to wait a significant amount of time for it to be produced.

The lack of setup and tooling costs associated with rapid prototyping services means that new iterations on a design can be produced quickly and cost effectively. 

The advent of new additive and subtractive manufacturing processes, like 3D printing and CNC machining changed the rapid prototyping definition. 

Instead of hand milling and injection molding, both of which are slow and expensive by comparison, new proof of concept models can be produced by 3D printing in a matter of hours and CNC prototyping can produce engineering prototypes in a similar time frame. 

The rapid prototyping process has a number of advantages, such as:

  • The ability to explore concepts in a low-cost low-risk environment. Because of the cost and time effective nature of CNC prototyping and 3D printing, designers are able to explore new designs and new materials with greater freedom.  
  • Regardless of how good your CAD software is, nothing helps with the communication of ideas more effectively than holding a physical object. This is especially true when using proof of concept models to attract investors or drive sales.
  • The speed at which new prototypes can be produced by rapid prototyping services means that designers can quickly and effectively incorporate testing results and feedback into new iterations on the base design. 
  • A combination of the factors listed above means the employing rapid prototyping alongside new additive and subtractive manufacturing options, allows design departments to more thoroughly test their prototypes and minimize potential design flaws that could have cost and functionality implications later on.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Rapid Prototyping with CNC Machining

There are a huge range of benefits associated with CNC prototyping and a few drawbacks, including:

Pros

Rapid CAD design changes

One of the primary benefits of rapid prototyping is it allows for rapid iteration of design. This is in response to feedback from testing. 

This is especially true for the CAD designs used to create the G-code used for CNC Machining. 

Because CAD files are used to instruct the computer controlled machining tools, the designer can be sure that the dimensions of the part produced will exactly match the dimensions on the digital design.

When changes need to be made, the designers or engineers can make those adjustments to a new iteration of the CAD file. 

This means that the two iterations of the design can be compared side by side and even tested against each other using simulation software. 

Machining quality and consistency 

Discounting the odd error, cnc machining tools are incredibly precise and consistent. These are able to mill shapes within a fraction of a millimeter. 

Just as importantly, this process can be done over and over again without variations in the result. 

This level of precision and consistency is hugely important to the interactive design and prototyping process. 

Small variations to the design can be made in response to feedback and test. Also, those designs produced without any of the other dimensions changing.

Rapid prototype production 

Modern CNC machining services can produce a part in as little as a matter of hours. This makes them just as fast as some 3D printing methods. 

Hence, this makes a CNC prototype ideal for products that need short lead times. Which can result to rapidly bringing products to market. 

No fixed tooling

Unlike other traditional manufacturing methods, such as die casting or injection molding, CNC prototyping does not need separate specific tools, dies, or molds. 

Depending on the complexity of the part, creating the required tools, dies, or molds for prototype production can take as long as a month, not ideal for a rapid prototyping process. 

Most modern CNC machines come with a huge range of cutting inserts and milling tools as standard. But, these tools can be switched in and out easily. 

This results in both lowered costs and drastically lowered lead times. 

A huge range of possible materials

The material that can be cut to shape in a CNC machine is restricted solely by its rigidity and melting temperature. This means a huge variety of materials can be used in CNC prototyping, including:

Metals

Aluminum

Steel

Stainless Steel

Magnesium

Titanium

Zinc

Brass

Bronze

Copper

Plastics

ABS

PC

PP

PS

POM

PMMA

PAGF30

PCGF30

Teflon

LDPE

HDP

As you can see, there are a huge range of materials available in CNC machining that are not available in 3D printing. 

This is especially true of the range of metals that can be used to create functional engineering prototypes. Since these requires specific tolerances that would not be possible with metal 3D printing. 

Cons

Geometric restrictions

While the best CNC machining tools have four or five axes and are able to create parts of significant complexity, they still have certain limitations. 

However, this can often be a blessing in disguise. While it is true that you can 3D print parts with far more complex internal geometries than you can cut with a CNC machine, how useful that is will depend on how you plan to produce the final product.

Despite the ubiquity and growing popularity of 3D printing, the vast majority of consumer products and parts are not 3D printed. 

Issues with cutting the part on an advanced CNC machine might be an indication that the part is too complex for most end product manufacturing methods as well.

 

More expensive

The reality is that CNC prototyping is always going to be more expensive than 3D printing. 

However, the added costs of using a CNC printing service need to be weighed against the benefits of CNC prototyping we’ve already mentioned.

In certain cases, CNC prototyping is simply the right choice for certain design prototypes and is still less expensive than traditional manufacturing methods.

 

Wasteful

All subtractive manufacturing methods are, to one extent or another, wasteful. Material is being taken away from the workpiece and that material is then not reused as part of the process.

However, depending on the metal being removed by the CNC machine, the waste might be entirely recyclable or reusable. This is especially true of waste metals, which can simply be melted down and reformed.

Applications of Rapid Prototyping with CNC Machining

There are a large number of industries that are already using CNC prototyping as the foundation of their rapid prototyping designs, including:

 

The aerospace industry

From increasingly smaller and lighter drones to the parts needed to send billionaires into space, the aerospace industry is in a constant state of iterative development. 

While 3D printing can be used to create proof of concept models, CNC machining is required to make testable engineering prototypes out of the materials that the end product will be made from.

Those engineering prototypes then need to be able to have the specific tolerances needed to test them under working conditions. This is especially important in the case of vital sections of an aircraft, where failure of even a small part can be catastrophic.

 

The automotive industry

For many of the same reasons as the aerospace industry, the automotive industry makes heavy use of both rapid prototyping and CNC machining as part of that process. 

The use of CNC prototypes allows automotive manufacturers to create, test, and then iterate on working parts of an engine using the eventual end product materials. New parts can quickly be adapted and machined to exacting geometries and tolerances.  

Rapid CNC Prototyping and the Jiga Marketplace

Using the Jiga Marketplace, you can quickly and effectively outsource your CNC prototyping needs to some of the best CNC machine shops in the world. 

Receive instant, expert feedback on your proposed design from experienced engineers and order your parts with complete confidence and peace of mind with the Jiga Buyer Protection.

Streamline your prototype creation with Jiga. 

You only have one contract, with us, and we handle shipping, payments and legal agreements, saving you thousands of hours on administrative and operational tasks and reducing your lead times.

CNC machining a prototype

The Complete Guide on Acetal Delrin

When it comes to choosing the right plastic for an industrial or engineering application, you have many options. When you do your research, you’ll probably encounter plastics like Acetal, POM, Nylon, UHMW, and Delrin. depending on your application. Read More…

Tags: 3D printing, manufacturing

The Complete Guide on Acetal Delrin

When it comes to choosing the right plastic for an industrial or engineering application, you have many options. When you do your research, you’ll probably encounter plastics like Acetal, POM, Nylon, UHMW, and Delrin. depending on your application. Read More…

Tags: 3D printing, manufacturing

The Complete Guide on Acetal Delrin

When it comes to choosing the right plastic for an industrial or engineering application, you have many options. When you do your research, you’ll probably encounter plastics like Acetal, POM, Nylon, UHMW, and Delrin. depending on your application. Read More…

Tags: 3D printing, manufacturing

The Complete Guide on Acetal Delrin

When it comes to choosing the right plastic for an industrial or engineering application, you have many options. When you do your research, you’ll probably encounter plastics like Acetal, POM, Nylon, UHMW, and Delrin. depending on your application. Read More…

Tags: 3D printing, manufacturing

Processes
3D PRINTING-art and design-3d printing-3d printer-plastic-production
Rapid Prototyping

Ready to get started?