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Day: October 28, 2018

Key Differences Between Production and Prototype Tooling

In product development, testing is a critical factor. In some cases engineers need to demonstrate how a new design will perform as part of management approval for investment into production. In other cases, regulatory requirements require testing of products from representative materials and processes that correspond to those intended. As part of its prototyping methodology, manufacturers often use different strategies for executing prototypes depending on the purpose of the parts. When injection molding is involved in the final product, the use of specially engineered polymers in the product specification may result in the need to injection mold the parts being used in testing in order to get reliable results. Depending on the circumstances, the final production injection molds may be used or separate prototype tooling may be utilized. The goal is to ensure a superior prototype and timely testing, which helps identify design changes before taking a product into full production.

There are a number of key decisions, which go into the prototype tooling process, which enables a design team to select the appropriate build strategy. A key element to consider is the degree of uncertainty or uniqueness of a particular design. The more unique a given design is from a company’s previous manufacturing experience, the more critical it is to test process and product early. Likewise, overall program schedule plays a big factor. The component in need of testing may just be one part of an overall system being developed. Final production tooling timing may be aligned more with the overall system’s development schedule. If so, waiting for production tooling may be a costly risk delaying valuable testing time. In those cases, a simple prototype tool to allow early evaluation of the component or sub-system may be a great investment. Finally, the likelihood a product may change should also be a factor in considering if separate prototype tooling should be used. If a design change is likely or probable, it is better to identify this early rather than executing the change to final production tooling which could require welding on the tool steel or other changes which might compromise the integrity of the mold for long run use.

For both production and prototyping, every tool is different. Two factors, which strongly influence the distinction between the two, are as follows:

  • Production Quantity – The degree of automation in a tool is often correlated with the production quantity intended. High production molds often are highly automated with wear maintenance provisions, sensing and process control capability built into the design. These factors add to the time and cost of the tooling but provide cost and processing efficiencies in the actual volume molding itself. Likewise high production molds are often multi-cavity allowing several parts of the same design to be molded simultaneously. Prototype molds by contrast, typically have limited automation and cavities, saving time and cost in fabrication and thus are suited to low volume molding with quicker development time.
  • Hard vs. Soft Tooling – Another difference between the prototype tooling process and production tooling process has to do with tooling materials. Production tooling is often made from hardened P20, H13 or other tool steel suitable for repeated use and long tool life. Heat-treating and surface hardening or plating are also often utilized. Prototype tools are often called soft tools based on the fact that aluminum and or mild steel are often used. This tooling material can be cut quicker in the machining process allowing for faster and more cost effective prototype tools. The tradeoff however is that tool life may be limited depending on the plastic intended to be molded and processing is not optimized for shortest cycle time. Soft tooling can offer affordability for both production and prototyping. However, because it allows for quick turnarounds of samples, it is often the preferred choice for prototypes.

Tooling is a big investment and cost is always an important deciding factor. Therefore, a manufacturing company will determine which type of tooling makes the most sense from a financial perspective and any product based factors necessary to make the right choice.

Innovative Prototyping and Production Services

The JouleHub team of experts can assist your team in the process of making critical decisions about machines, material, and tooling and providing the support services needed regardless of choice. For a superior quality prototype or product, we would love the opportunity to help. Visit us online or call to speak with a company representative regarding your project.

Why Choose CNC Rapid Prototyping

When it comes to rapid prototyping, there are several different options. These include 3-D printing, sand casting, selective laser sintering, investment casting, fabrication, and CNC rapid prototyping. While they all offer unique advantages, there are some unique advantages to CNC prototype machining.

What Is CNC Prototype Machining?

CNC prototyping involves utilization of 3D solid model CAD designs as the input, and correspondingly fabricating the part directly from solid material through a computer controlled cutting and milling process. Some have used the term, “subtractive” rapid prototyping to describe this process, to contrast it with 3D printing, which is sometimes referred to as “additive” manufacturing. The subtractive aspect is that the CNC machine removes material from a starting material block to create the final part precisely to the CAD model specifications. With modern CNC machines, this material removal process is efficient, quick, and accurate to demanding specifications. Because of this subtractive nature, CNC prototyping allows for parts made from literally any material that is machinable and commercially available in cast or extruded stock. This provides material versatility and permits prototyping in materials that are often identical or very similar to those specified in production use. CNC prototyping suppliers offer an outstanding option for low volume customized products and prototypes with precision results!

While prototyping offers many benefits, two stand out. First, by creating a model before producing hundreds or thousands of finished products, engineering teams can identify potential problems, often times minor geometry or functional issues that by human nature are inherently difficult to catch in a computer model alone. This can allow the manufacturer to make the necessary corrections before going into full production, which saves a significant amount of money. Secondly, human factors, or how humans interact with the product are most often best assessed on the prototype. Issues such as color, texture, feel, light, shadows, temperature to touch, resistance to motion, etc. can be assessed with prototypes made to high craftsmanship, quality, and proper materials.

A Broad Reach

Prototyping and CNC Prototyping in particular can benefit any industry, whether aviation, automotive, architecture, aerospace, construction, medical, or something else that requires a finished product with precision and detail. Investing in the prototype process with CNC machining reduces the risk of time-consuming and costly mistakes.

Likewise, CNC is a viable option for many lower volume production projects. Depending on the geometry and material, whether a customer needs 100 or 1,000 units, CNC machining may be an excellent option as it eliminates the need for upfront tooling and molds due to its “on-demand” manufacturing methodology. Whenever a customer needs a plastic or metal prototype or multiple pieces in low volume manufacturing, CNC machining can be an outstanding process.

Enjoy Stellar Results

If you need a rapid-prototyped part or component, our team at JouleHub can help. As a leader in the industry, we maintain state-of-the-art CNC machines and have a dedicated team of professionals eager to assist you. Visit our website or call for more information.

The Future of farming 4.0: drones and artificial intelligence

The digital transformation has brought about changes to our way of life at every level, even the everyday — changes that aren’t necessarily very visible or disruptive. This is a necessary innovation seeing how the current model for agriculture–considering the social and environmental challenges the world faces– is no longer sustainable.

But it’s also about innovation that doesn’t turn its nose up at tradition. Quite the opposite–it embraces that knowledge and spreads it better and faster with big data, improving the taste and quality of products. And it’s the traditional companies, the ones most closely involved in this push for innovation, that need to invest in the most promising startups, so they don’t miss out on the chance to ensure their products are high quality and produced according to a sustainable and robust model.

What is farming 4.0?

Back in the 90s, the concept of Precision Agriculture (PA) started to gather speed. This was a new technological approach comprised of GPS, satellite technology and software-enhanced machinery.

Recent figures from the mechanical industry in Europe show that 70-80% of agricultural machinery sold today have at least one component using PA technology. Yet it’s been tough getting the technology to take off in Europe. In Italy for example, only a fraction of agricultural land uses PA technology. According to the watchdog Smart AgriFood, the Italian PA market is worth just €100 million.

Meanwhile in France, Germany and the UK, companies that have adopted PA techniques exceed 20%, and in the US this number reaches 80%. Farming 4.0 isn’t just a necessary evolution, it’s also useful for facing the impending food emergency: it’s estimated that the world’s population will reach 9 billion by 2050 and natural resources aren’t infinite.