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Film Covering, 3D Printing and CNC Processing, Which One?

In the industrial production, when the designing drawing of a product is completed, a new product will be assessed comprehensively before entering into the market. For instance, structural performance test, market forecast, etc. Therefore, the prototype production will reduce the risks, find the problems immediately and correct them to modify your products. 

 Generally, processes for making hand boards in small batches include CNC machining, silicone replica, and 3D printing, which are widely used to serve the prototype production of automobile, aerospace, and consumer electronics.

CNC machining 

CNC(Computerized Numerical Control) devices are the computer operated lathes, which works by following the programming of settings. By using the high speed rotating tools to carve a profile as the appearance the you want. Automatic programming software has not been developed for programming tool path. Thus, it still requires engineers with rich working experience to deign, which is why the manufacturing of the CNC plate requires a long time. CNC also supports fully automatic production, but the advantages of CNC can not be replaced by the other two processing methods.

  1. CNC can process various kinds of materials, including the plastic materials and metal materials. (Plastic: ABS, PC, PMMA, PP… Metal: aluminum, copper, stainless steel…) 
  2. The CNC machining parts have smooth surface with multiple selections of post-treatment. precision of parts 

Duplex/vacuum filling

Duplex is to produce the silicone molds under the vacuum condition with the original plates and pouring with the plastic rubber materials under the vacuum condition to quickly clone 10-50 copies identical to the original. 

Small batches production 

The manufacturing process of the duplex cannot work without the manual operation, especially on the manufacturing of the silicone molds. Considering different kinds of materials will have a certain ration of shrinkage and thus the advantage of the mold reproduction master is making the template and silicone film to achieve small batches products with low cost. Moreover, the processing method is basically similar to that of formal injection molding. Thus, if the structure of products are similar and simple, or planning for large volume production, it requires injection mold to start. This scheme is feasible. The silica gel mold can produce 10-50 pieces of the same product. The disadvantage is that the mold is not resistant to acid and alkali, aging, and short life. The mold surface is prone to traces, stripes, and un-smooth, and with low accuracy. 

3D printing 

3D printing is called additive manufacturing, which is based on the digital model files. With the use of powder, linear plastic, liquid resin materials or metal powder materials to build by layer printing, and is not limited by space. Thus, the model slicing (similar to CNC programming steps) can be finished with softwares. The manufacturing process of 3D printing is almost fully automatic, in addition to the cleaning steps. 

Advantages of 3D printing 

  1. Efficient. 

The SLA machining speed of the same part is 1/3 that of the CNC machining. 

  1. Not limited by spatial structure

It can successfully turn your design into reality. SLS 3D printing suits for the manufacturing of hollow pieces. 

  1. As long as the placement position is reasonable, 3D printing can process different kinds of parts in only one batch. While, there are some sheet metal s and hand boards that I didn’t mention here as the processing principle and application range of them and CNC/laminating/3D printing hand board are still different. The material of sheet metal processing is thin, such as the computer host shell, drawer slide, support iron frame of large posters, etc.
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