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Using cnc milling for rapid prototyping

6 Reasons to Use CNC for Rapid Prototyping

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Today, CNC machining, a computer-aided manufacturing process, is one of the most relied-upon manufacturing technologies among product development teams and engineers for creating custom metal and plastic parts and one of our top choices for rapid prototyping (RP). Here are six reasons why:


1. CNC is fast

CNC machining is an incredibly fast method of rapid prototyping that produces highly accurate parts in a fraction of the time it would take other methods. The process requires minimal setup time and is almost entirely automated. This means that prototypes and final products can be tested, evaluated and brought to market faster.


2. CNC produces more accurate results

When it comes to precision, CNC offers greater dimensional accuracy than other rapid prototyping processes, like 3D printing and vacuum casting. This is because CNC machines have a higher tolerance capability (with tolerances to +0.05mm or better). In fact, many metal 3D printed components are often CNC machined to tighter tolerances during post processing.


cnc machine rapid prototyping a high precision metal part


As CNC is a computerised manufacturing process, it can produce consistent tight tolerance results over production runs of unlimited numbers.


3. CNC requires no tooling

Some manufacturing processes, such as plastic injection molding or pressure die casting, requires the use of “hard” tools made of different grades of aluminum and steel. These tools are specifically designed to withstand repeated use and exposure to high temperatures and are therefore, expensive and require more time to make.

Even vacuum casting uses silicone moulds or “soft” tools, which can take a few days to prepare. Investing in tools is, of course, entirely worth doing for many projects, especially when reproducing subtle surface textures. But likewise, many RP projects can benefit from the no tooling requirement of CNC machining.


4. CNC allows for quick and easy modifications

CNC machining is a great choice for rapid prototyping as it allows for easy, quick and accurate modifications to be made. During product development, you want to be able to test several different iterations and immediately assess the results. With just a few quick and simple alterations to the G-code program, you can have your modified part in hand, reducing total product development times without adding any extra cost.


5. CNC offers flexibility in material and finishes

CNC machining can work with a wide range of plastic and metal allows. It allows for prototyping in almost any material needed —  this is especially important in different stages of the RP process. In addition, the surface finishing options are vast. With CNC machining, you don’t have to worry about your prototypes being too brittle to apply your desired surface finish, unlike with some 3D printing processes.


6. CNC is highly versatile

CNC machining can be used to create parts of almost any shape and size, allowing for rapid prototyping of complex geometries that may not be achievable with traditional methods such as injection molding or die casting. The versatility of CNC machining makes it an ideal choice for a wide range of industries including aerospace, automotive, medical device manufacturing, oil & gas equipment manufacturing, and more.


complex geometry high precision cnc machined part


All in all, CNC is an excellent way to produce prototypes quickly and efficiently with superior accuracy and finish and minimal effort and cost – making it one of the best methods for rapid prototyping available today! So if you’re looking to create a rapid prototype, we recommend considering CNC machining.

For more information about our CNC rapid prototyping capabilities, check out our CNC milling and turning services page.

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