Whilst this might not be the top of your list of requirements, it’s vital to ensure that the firm you work with has the right array of machinery and personnel to deliver the project and prototype to your exacting standards. An example of this would be if you want a quick block model, then accuracy won’t necessarily be at the top of your list. However, if your prototype has limited tolerances and ultimately will need a high-spec finish, working with a firm that has multiple CNC machines will be extremely beneficial.
We choose between seven CNC machines depending on the customer’s needs, which means not only are we competitively priced but can deliver on time.
You want a part 3D printed? For most high-volume 3D manufacturers, that’s enough information. But it really isn’t sufficient when you consider the finishes required for the part and ultimately what you need it for. Ask your 3D printing company to think about the orientation at which your part is built; it reduces build lines and delivers a crisper finish. This also applies to CNC projects where, for example, weight might be an issue. All of these challenges can largely be overcome in the processes and development, but need to be considered from the onset.
This can make a huge different to the efficacy of your project and dramatically reduce the overall costs of a project. We are frequently asked to work with new materials for the aerospace and automotive industry as these will allow designers and engineers to thoroughly test a prototype before making changes and ultimately going into manufacture. Also, if production-spec materials aren’t viable options, then speak to your prototyping company about other options. For a marine project, we used a specific sealant to replicate the waterproof effect needed to test the part, on a recent aerospace project a specific fibreglass was chosen to dramatically reduce the weight and allow for electrical cables to be discretely hidden.
If you just need a quick 3D printed piece as part of a design project that is likely to have multiple iterations, then the finishing is not particularly important. If the part in question is the final design concept which will now be exhibited or displayed, then the way the part is finished before reaching the paint department is vital. At Ogle, we installed two EVP250 vibratory bowls to automate and speed the finishing of plastic parts made by SLS. Benefits of this process include delivering a satin-like finish, but parts also become more flexible as the plastic absorbs water from the bowl which replaces the material’s nature moisture lost during the laser sintering at 175 to 180°C.
I’d like to stop for a minute and compare this to the walls of your house/office. There’s plasterboard in there and perhaps some insulation, but all you see if the colour and finish of the paint or wallpaper. Once a part has reached the paint department it has been fully prepped to deliver the best finish. Make sure the prototyping firm you choose has a dedicated paint facility. It is what your potential customers or investors will see first and instantly judge your concept on. We’d also urge you not to be afraid to push the boundaries. Ask for the zebra print sprinkled with gold dust and foil wrapped! If it’s what your project needs to succeed, then you need know before commissioning a firm that are capable of delivering your vision entirely.