something else) creating reusable models can save time.
3D blueprints – probably made on one’s own in the case
of prototyping but also possibly based on a plan from a
manufacturer – are needed in order to make the part and be sure
that its interior architecture can stand up to being printed. The
prototype will then be able to accurately reflect the stresses that
will be on the object when it enters the physical space.
Jaworski is always keeping an eye out for new materials.
Conductive materials, which allow electrical signals to flow
through them, might be the next big thing when it comes to
printing prototypes that not only accurately show a potential
product’s physical properties, but also its electrical properties.
For example, Jaworski says, a company could produce a
functioning robot in one piece.
“For now these conductive materials are of poor quality and
very expensive, so it’s not happening yet, but it will happen at
some point and things will change,” he says.
His interest in the next generation of printers also focuses on
the increased capabilities of desktop printers. The real key to
making 3D printing more common is to find a “killer application”
which no one yet uses 3D printing for, he says. That could enable
people to print things at home and make printers an essential,
common part of life more than ever before. Jaworski predicts that
the key element of this change will not come from what materials
are used, but from what they are used for.
Guillermo Parodi, owner of Draw2CNC, a CNC machining
service, also weighs in on using CNC machines to create
prototypes. Most of his clients request small aluminum parts,
under 2 inches per side but with too much depth to produce on
a router. Interest in Teflon parts is also on the rise.
Draw2CNC uses a free CAD program to let clients see how
their product might be produced as a prototype using a CNC
Parodi says that the most important thing to look for when
considering using a CNC machine for prototyping is reliability.
Especially for professional shops, a machine must be able to
guarantee performance within the time reported to a client, and it
must be able to meet expected yield.
Someone who wants to use a CNC machine for personal use
might be less concerned about perfect reliability, but still needs
to find a machine within the right price that will work as much
and as efficiently as they need it to. Maximum volume must also
be taken into consideration. Draw2CNC uses a minimum of
3-axis machines, but some companies may need the fourth axis
depending on the type of work they do.
Both CNC machining and 3D printing, as well as a
combination of both and additional subtractive techniques, have
changed the way prototyping can be done in the modern era. The
most important elements have not changed, though – a prototype
must accurately reflect the finished product and be flexible and
strong enough to undergo testing or display. Finding out what
method will work best for your business is just the first step.
Image credit: ZMorph