Prototyping, Low Volume Production And Mass Manufacturing

Mach Machining   •   Design Tips

After 10 years working as a machine shop, we meet several hundreds of clients from different industries with various requirements. One important difference is that they have unequal quantity demand for their products. The difference can range from one piece to tens of thousands. So searching for the right solution to meet the specific requirement from our customer is the key capability of the suppliers. Here, we list several solutions to figure out the problem.

Rapid Prototyping 

Some clients, especially industrial designer, would like to test their initial design, then they may request a prototyping need to us,  the order number may be very small. Our job is to complete the prototypes in a short time and send them to the clients. According to the part geometry, we may use three methods to make the prototypes:

  • CNC Milling – the equipment to do milling job is called CNC milling machine or VMC(Vertical Machining Center), the material block is fixed on the working table, and the turning mill cutter come to rid the material from the block. This machining method applies to the parts with orthogonal sides.
  • CNC Turning – the equipment to do turning job is called CNC lathe, different with milling machine, the material block is foxed on the working table which is horizontal mouted on the machine spindle. When machine working, working table start turning, and the lathe tool stay still and move to the block to cut the material out. The method applies to round part.
  • 3D Printing – both CNC milling and turning methods are call reductive manufacturing, using the cutter to reduce the material from a part. 3D printing is called additive manufacturing, the raw material is liguid or powder, there are many kinds of forming methods, using laser or special wave to heat the specific part inside the raw material to make them molten and gather together. After all the part is formed together, then a prototype comes out.

The three methods of prototyping have their own prons and cons, our team will choose a best solution after reviewing your design.

Low Volume Production 

Some clients want to make several tens or hundreds of their products, some method for prototyping may not suitable for low volume production, due to the high cost or long lead time. Some different technologies may be utilized here:

  • CNC Machining – CNC Machining is also available for low volume production, after optimize the process of the manufacturing course. We can design jig to help the production, dividing the machining process into several steps may be a choice. These actions could reduce the cost and accelerate the machining efficience.
  • Vacuum Casting – It is an economic way to make plastic parts in small volume. We need to make a silicone mould first, silicone mould is not a mould for injection molding silicone, but a mould made by silicone. The silicone mould could be completed in hours, and then mounted on vacuum casting machine, the liquid raw material is injected into the mould and become solid inside the mould. Raw material for vacuum casting is called polyurethane, different kinds of polyurethane combined together and become plastics have similar properties with ABS, PMMA, PC, PP etc..
  • Cheap Metal Mould – Vacuum casting could deal with the quantity of several tens, but if the quantity is several hundreds, the cost of vacuum casting is still high. So cheap metal mould may be the best solution. The mould material could be aluminium alloy and harden steel. The life of the mould is short, but enough to cover the demand of clients. We also need to adjust the parameters of the injection molding machine to adapt to the low volume production method.

Mass Manufacturing

When a product is popular in the market, the clients want to enlarge the manufacturing quantity to several thousands. Then all the above methods may be expensive, here are some mass manufacturing methods:

  • Injection Molding – A most common method to mass producing plastic parts, a high quality mould is made and mounted on injection molding machine, then several hundreds or thousands of plastic parts are made in one day. The disadvantage is the expensive mould price and long lead time for making the mould.
  • Die Casting – It is a mass manufacturing method for making metal part. The molten metal is casted into the mould, the part is formed after cooling.
  • Extrusion – It is another mass manufacturing method for both plastic and metal part with cross sentions.

The above are some common methods to make plastic and metal parts in low and high volume. If you have requirements of making cnc parts, please contact via