CNC Plastic Machining for Quick Prototyping

CNC plastic machining can enable quick prototyping. Developing custom prototypes can be a time consuming process. However, today’s businesses don’t always have a ton of time to wait for old fashioned manufacturing firms to produce samples of products throughout the testing and development phase. Increases in competition and advances in technology and factory automation in recent years mean that companies need to be able to respond to changes in demand almost immediately. Waiting around for prototypes or bringing new products to market before they’ve been fully tested and vetted could spell disaster. 

Luckily, there are quick prototyping options available for companies that work with plastic materials. CNC machining offers an automated process with plenty of different customization options to suit the needs of companies in a wide array of industries. If you’re in need of speedy prototyping options for your company, here’s what you should know about CNC plastics. 

When Should You Consider Using CNC Plastic Machining for a Prototype?

CNC machining should be on your radar if you require prototypes that both look and function like the final part or product you’re trying to develop. These pieces of equipment utilize computer numerical control to specify a very specific set of movements in order to produce the exact design you want. In other words, fabricators can use software to create a full plan of how they want the plastic material machined, and then the machine does the rest. Ultimately, this allows companies to get a very accurate representation of the product they’re looking to create. When using durable, quality plastic material, this can be a perfect way to get a really accurate feel for how your product should operate in the real world. In addition, the process can easily be repeated or modified as needed throughout the prototyping process. 

CNC plastics are also perfect for prototyping projects where you need a prototype completed quickly. Since much of the process is automated, all you need is the design and materials to get access to your prototype right away. This is especially beneficial for companies that need to work quickly to gain a competitive advantage in a crowded market. It’s also a must for those who are working through a complicated testing and development phases, since rapid prototyping allows you to easily make adjustments on the fly and constantly try out new versions of your prototype without leading to massive delays. 

Common Applications

CNC plastics can be used for prototypes in a wide array of industries. From small automotive components to energy equipment, you can use CNC machining processes to quickly complete basically any prototype that can be made with plastic material. These machines work with Lexan, HPDE, acrylic, PET, polypropylene, and so many others. The possibilities for types of products and designs are nearly endless. 

How Does It Compare to 3D Printing?

Both 3D printing and CNC machining use automation equipment and can be programmed to create a finished design that meets exact specifications. Both can also use certain types of plastics. For instance, PETG is a popular material in 3D printing, and acrylic is popular in CNC machining. However, that’s where most of the similarities end. In fact, the two processes have several differences.. 

More specifically, 3D printing is an additive process. You start with a design and raw materials. That raw material is then added to itself in the exact shape or layout specified using a 3D printing design software. On the other hand, CNC machining is a subtractive process. You start with a larger piece of material and then cut away pieces in order to shape it into the finished design you want for your prototype or product. 

Aside from the fabrication process itself, items produced using CNC machining and 3D printing can have variable levels of quality that are noticeable among end users. Although each specific prototype is different and the needs of companies vary, it’s common for prototypes made using CNC machines to be a bit more user friendly when it comes to testing and creating a prototype that actually functions like the finished product might. On the other hand, 3D printed objects are often more suitable to simply test the visual design of an item or serve as a placeholder to test things like size and general shape. 

If you’re looking into rapid prototyping options for your business and think that CNC plastics could work for you, contact Fabshapes. We offer a huge variety of plastic materials that can be customized to suit your specific needs. Our Dayton fabrication center has access to state of the art equipment like CNC machines, polishers, and laser cutters so you end up with a prototype or product that is made to your company’s precise specifications. We also maintain ISO 9001 certification and ITAR compliance at our facility, so you can feel confident about the quality of products and services we provide. In addition to rapid prototyping options, we offer custom plastic fabrication services for clients in a variety of industries, including construction, machining, energy, and retail, and we’re equipped to deliver fast services to companies throughout the Midwest and East Coast. To get started with your next rapid prototyping project, visit our website to request a free quote. A member of our friendly customer service team will get back to you within 24 hours to get your next plastic fabrication project off to a fast start.