CNC Machining for Prototyping

CNC Machining for Prototyping

In simple terms, prototyping is the process of physically building a model or draft of an idea. As engineers, prototyping is a critical step in the product development process, where a solid model is brought to life that we can touch, see, and interact with. Historically, prototyping was a long and expensive process, but modern rapid prototyping allows ideas to form in a matter of days.

CNC Machining is Ideal for Large Aerospace Prototype Parts

Traditional vs Rapid Prototyping
Traditionally, prototyping for product development involves the following steps:

  • 1. Spend days or weeks designing products using solid modeling software to create 3D CAD units and a set of 2D drawings.
  • 2. Get quotes from multiple manufacturers to manufacture the necessary components
  • 3. Wait weeks or months to receive your machined prototype, often without much communication

This old-fashioned prototype relied on sand casting and models using clay molding, wood, wire, and tape. As great as Claymation films can be, those outdated methods are best left to filmmakers. With the invention of CNC machining, 3D printing and rapid prototyping methods, today’s engineers can build prototypes faster than ever before.

Fast prototyping utilizing 3D printing additive manufacturing is beneficial in many instances

Quick prototyping utilizes many processes, including:

Stereolithographic (SLA) 3D Printing
Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D Stamping
Selective Laser Melting (SLM) aka Powder Bed Fusion 3D Metal Printing
Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) 3D Printing
Sheet Lamination
Digital Light Processing (DLP) 3D IMAGES Printing
Binder Jetting 3D Printing
One problem with rapid prototyping is that 3D stamping creates things that look 3D-style and even move or function as expected, but are inaccurate in size. That’s why 3D printing is an excellent and cost-effective option when you’re looking for models for display purposes only.

Rapid prototyping with 3 DIMENSIONAL printing can also produce parts with different densities and different material properties than the final product. This is because the range of materials available for 3D image printing is narrow – although the number of materials available for additive production is generally growing. For example, metal 3D printed parts are often porous, which can lead to mechanical failures and density changes if left untreated.

When you need an engineering original or production prototype that looks feels and functions like the finished product, CNC Rapid Prototyping may be the best choice. In addition, with digital manufacturing infrastructure like Tik Precision’s platform, you can get estimates right away to get a representative model of CNC machining in just a few days.

Benefits of CNC Machined Prototypes

Structural Integrity
Compared to 3D printed parts, CNC machined parts offer a higher degree of strength and similarity to the desired finished mechanical and material properties. Of these preferred properties, structural integrity is often arguably the most important—in this case, strength integrity can be defined as the strength, stiffness, and stiffness of a material.

With additive manufacturing methods, layer fusion is not always 100% successful, which can lead to voids, pores, or displacement of the coating. These inconsistencies in the final part can adversely affect the structural integrity of the finished product. With subtractive manufacturing (CNC machining), your prototype is absolutely sculpted from a solid, uniform stock of material, reducing the chance of geometric discontinuities.

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CNC machining is one of the most reliable manufacturing methods for parts with tight tolerances. CNC engineering can limit tolerances to thousandths of an inch, while 3D printing can only hold to a few thousandths of an inch. (About an order of magnitude difference).

Dimensional Accuracy
Whether you use CNC-machined prototypes out of plastic or metal, computer numerical control machining achieves a higher level of dimensional accuracy than other rapid prototyping strategies. CNC machining can easily produce parts with complex geometries with high precision.

Fast CNC prototype engineering outcomes in high-quality parts with excellent reliability

Material Selection
In short, CNC machining can be performed on a wide variety of materials, from soft and ductile to hard and rigid, from metal alloys to wood to plastics. CNC machining is so versatile, in part, because it is definitely a great manufacturing method that can be used for almost any solid part. You can even process vinyl, fiberglass and carbon fiber materials, laminate, fiberboard and corrugated plastic materials!

Product Size
Check out this large computer numerically controlled machine that is touted as the world’s largest. It is capable of producing parts up to eight feet tall! The Thornwood M400 weighs an impressive 51 tones and its head can generate speeds of up to 20k RPM. While it’s not possible to buy this particular CNC machine, it shows how big a part you can make with CNC machining. For prototyping, this feature can be an important feature if you need to avoid many assembly steps to get a prototype.

In addition, of course, there’s the self-proclaimed world’s largest 3D printer — a creation of the Center for Advanced Structures and Composites at the University of Maine — which has a 100-foot bed. Still, large-scale component production is ideal for CNC machining.

Prototype CNC engineering is the ideal program associated with mid-term functional prototyping. Tik Precision can help you accelerate your lead-time through rapid prototyping by providing instant online quotes, intelligent DFM feedback, and fast lead times.

Finishing, masking & hardware installation
CNC Milling, COMPUTER NUMERICAL CONTROL turning, gear hobbling, EDM
Tolerances: +/- 0. 0002″
Considerations for CNC machined Prototypes
The following are key limitations to consider when choosing between CNC machining and other options for prototyping:

Other rapid prototyping methods may result in shorter turnaround times (note: this is unique to prototyping runs, as larger instances of creation leads are usually short in CNC machining)
With additive production, you can create lightweight prototypes for screen purposes because you can leave the internal cavity empty. Achieving the same goal with CNC engineering is much more complicated.
Additive manufacturing is a more sustainable decision in terms of material waste due to the layered nature of ingredient production (though you can often recycle chips from CNC machining).

Additionally, here are some of the benefits we offer our customers to ensure successful CNC machining model results:

Inspection reports included with every order
All CNC machined parts are inspected with hand metrology, CMM, or perhaps laser scanners
A network of highly vetted manufacturing partners with expertise in CNC machining
ISO 9001 certification
Quality guarantee
No matter what type of CNC service you need, Tik Precision makes it faster, easier and more efficient to source and supply quality mechanized parts. Go to to learn more about our CNC machining services then create an account and upload a design to get an instant quote and free DFM opinion!