What is CNC machining prototyping?
Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machining is one of the widely used industrial manufacturing processes. It involves the use of computer programs to control how machining tools – drills, shapers, lathes, grinders, power saws, etc. – are shaping the workpiece. The use of tools to remove the workpiece material means CNC machining is a subtractive method. It’s applicable in many industries to manufacture end-use-parts and prototypes.
When it comes to CNC Aluminium services, you can think of many engineering processes such as drilling, turning, milling, broaching, grinding, lapping, sawing, honing, EDM, and so on. CNC machining services are known to create an exact component as designed using CAD software. Machining experts and/or designers are required to plan the machining execution process. For instance, which combination of CNC machining processes and/or tools is required to manufacture a prototype as well as their order of execution. This is achieved through machine setup and preparation of workpiece, and so on.
Figure 1: WayKen CNC machining experts at work
Characteristics of aluminum alloy CNC machining services
Aluminium alloy is a common metal in the creation of high-quality prototypes using CNC machining services. This is because it is recyclable, it is light, it exhibits good protective properties (durability), non-magnetic, a good conductor of heat and electricity, affordable, and soft (and thus short machining time) and so on. Such qualities have made aluminium to be applicable in many industries.
The following are some of the characteristics of CNC aluminium prototyping in comparison to other prototyping methods;
1. Accuracy, size limitations, and geometric Complexity – These are elaborated in the table below.
Table 1: CNC aluminium services prototypes compared to other rapid prototyping methods
|Tolerance (mm)||Min. Layer Thickness
Max. build volume (mm)
|CNC Milling||± 0.025 – 0.125||cutting depth 0.01||2000 x 800 x 1000|
|SLS||± 0.3||0.7 – 1.0||300 x 300 x 300|
|Industrial FDM||± 0.5||0.8 – 1.0||900 x 600 x 900|
230 x 150 x 150
2. Cost – The cost-per-prototype from CNC aluminium services decreases with increasing volume as opposed to additive prototyping methods.
3. Operation – CNC prototyping requires an expert to select tools, speeds of tools, cutting paths, etc. as opposed to additive prototyping methods. As a result, to reap its benefits, please engage an experienced company offering CNC prototyping services.
4. Waste – CNC machining generates chip wastes that need to be cleared and disposed-off afterward. In Aluminium operations, these chips are easy to recycle.
The benefits of CNC aluminum services
If you have prototypes made from Aluminium using CNC machining prototyping, then the following are the benefits you will be enjoying;
- CAD-to-product – CNC machining processes use computer programs to move from the 3D CAD drawings to parts with less human interference. This means high repeatability as well as precise and quick alterations if need be and thus reduced product development time. Also, quality and consistency are assured.
- Ease of machinability – Compared to other metals, aluminium is soft and thus easy to machine. This also means extended tool life and thus reduction of component cost.
- Low-temperature machining – Compared to other metals such as steel, Aluminium can easily be machined at low temperatures. Consequently, this leads to an extended tool and coolant life.
- Aesthetic finish – Freshly cut Aluminium gives shiny finish which rarely requires post-processing.
Figure 3: Surface finish from aluminium CNC machining
- Recycling – The wastes from the Aluminium machining is easy to recycle as compared to other metals. This increases productivity.
- Easy to form – Aluminium is easy to form given its softness compared to other metals such as steel.
- Weight-to-Strength ratio – Compared to steel, aluminium has a ratio of one-eighth while steel has one-sixteenth for the same volume. This means that you are getting twice as much the amount of strength on the aluminium per given volume than on the steel.
The process of CNC aluminum machining
CNC machining involves the following basic processes and steps;
- Design of a CAD model – A 3D CAD model is generated using CAD software. This is the design part.
- Conversion of the CAD file to a CNC program – The CAD model is then converted into a CNC program to be fed into the CNC machine. Every manufacturing process is coded so that the CNC machine can read and execute it accordingly.
- Preparation of the CNC machine – The CNC machine is then prepared by feeding in the program, loading the workpiece, coolants, etc.
- Execution of the machining operation – Finally, the program is executed to manufacture the part of the prototype.
These steps are quite involving and require an expert. Consequently, there a need for sub-contracting Aluminium services to companies with expertise, machines, and experience for a clean job.
Application industry of Aluminum Prototype
CNC machined aluminium parts and prototypes are used in;
- Construction – e.g. doorknobs, door frames, solar protection, staircase, handles, hinges, etc.
Figure 4: Boeing 787 – Materials used
- Automotive – Bearings, engine block, etc.
- Military – Aircraft, etc.
In short, the use of aluminium parts made from CNC machining prototyping is unlimited due to its appealing properties and qualities.
In conclusion, Aluminium is a very useful material in CNC machining prototyping. This is as a result of its advantages and ease of machining using CNC machines. Besides, many industries are using Aluminium components due to their appealing mechanical properties and surface finish experience. However, CNC prototyping requires one to invest in high-quality CNC machines and workforce that may be very expensive. It is for this reason that you need to take advantage of an established Aluminium prototyping company such as WAYKEN RAPID MANUFACTURING LIMITED to have your CNC Aluminium services rendered by the experts. This is because we have invested heavily in CNC machines and assembled a pool of technical team to have your parts done professionally and within reasonable costs. With experience, you can be guaranteed that quality is of utmost importance. Let us be part of your success story.
Author | Emily Forbes
An Entrepreneur, Mother & A passionate tech writer in the technology industry!