Prototyping processes and technologies all under one roof with Prototype Projects | Cambridge Network

2022-05-09 08:49:18 By : Mr. mingcong lin

There’s no denying the convenience of one-stop-shopping, whether it is supermarkets, DIY superstores or online with the likes of Amazon and eBay. The same is true for product developers – most of them probably have accounts with RS. But what about prototyping? Here at Prototype Projects, we are unusual in that we offer everything under one roof.

Unlike the majority of prototyping bureaux, we have all the major prototyping technologies and processes in-house, including 3D printing, CNC machining, vacuum casting, laser cutting, model making and finishing.

The term ‘3D printing’ has become a catch-all moniker for rapid prototype and additive manufacturing processes and technologies. Stereolithography (SLA), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Digitial Light Projection (DLP),  Fusion Deposition Modelling (FDM) and PolyJet are very different processes yet they are all commonly referred to as 3D printing. Whereas some 3D printing bureaux focus on one technology – and they may well be extremely good at it – we have no fewer than five different technologies in-house. This means we can always offer the optimum technology for a customer’s requirements, rather than trying to make something suit all needs (which it never can).

The five 3D printing technologies we use are:

Furthermore, we offer a choice of materials for each, as well as a range of finishing options.

We are huge fans of 3D printing but, at the same time, we also advocate the use of CNC machining for prototype parts. Why? Although 3D printing is incredibly versatile, some parts are simply better if they are milled or turned from solid material. This is especially – but not exclusively – the case for functional prototypes. Compared with 3D printing, CNC machining is more accurate, offers a wider choice of materials including metals, and CNC machined parts are likely to be stronger than 3D printed equivalents.

Again, we are unusual in that we have both 3D printing and CNC machining in-house. If you need prototype parts, we can give an unbiased view of the optimum prototyping technology for each component – in fact, we often provide a mix of 3D printed parts and CNC machined parts for use in the same prototype product.

Such is our belief in CNC machining that we have invested in equipment and personnel so we can operate our CNC machining centres and lathes efficiently which enables us to provide customers with an Express CNC machining service when time is of the essence.

Whether customers need design verification models, presentation models or advanced prototypes for functional testing, vacuum casting in polyurethane resin is often the best process for particular components.

When prototypes are required in volumes, vacuum casting is far quicker and more cost-effective than injection moulding with soft tooling. On the other hand, vacuum casting’s versatility, coupled with the wide range of polyurethane resin grades available, means it is equally useful for producing one-off parts with, for example, overmoulded soft-grip features. Vacuum casting can also be ideal when building functional prototypes; for instance, integral sealing features are easily moulded.

The fact that we have 3D printing, CNC machining and vacuum casting in-house often proves invaluable. We often use SLA to produce a master pattern for vacuum casting multiple parts. And sometimes we use a CNC machined component as an insert within a vacuum cast part if localised strength or detailed features are required.

Thin, flat components do not lend themselves well to 3D printing, CNC machining or vacuum casting. But laser cutting is ideal for processing a wide variety of sheet materials. One-offs are CNC profiled by importing 2D CAD data and, if multiple parts are required, our nesting software arranges the parts to maximise the utilisation of the sheet material. Because the laser cutting process is clean and leaves no burrs, it is suitable for producing sterile components for medical, pharmaceutical and life science applications.

In addition to 2D laser profiling, our machine also marks and engraves parts (marking changes the colour of the surface whereas engraving removes material to a controlled depth). As well as alphanumeric text, we can mark and engrave logos, symbols, graphics, QR codes, Data Matrix codes and bar codes.

Laser profiling, marking and engraving are not as commonly requested as 3D printing and CNC machining. Nevertheless, our laser machine often plugs a gap that cannot be filled by other prototyping technologies.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the need for model making has diminished because of state-of-the-art 3D printing and CNC machining technologies. In fact, these high-tech processes have extended what our skilled model makers are capable of. Whether you need a design verification model, presentation model or advanced prototype model, our team can give you exactly the aesthetic and/or function that you want.

Models often incorporate components that have been 3D printed, CNC machined, vacuum cast or laser cut, so it is ideal having all these processes under one roof.

Aside from the prototyping technologies and processes outlined above, we offer a few other related services. If parts have critical dimensions, we can inspect these with handheld callipers or micrometers, or with our co-ordinate measuring machine (CMM). We also assemble components, and we can supply bespoke display cases and transit cases.

Almost any finish can be achieved. For our Express 3D printing and CNC machining services, the short lead times only allow for minimal cleaning and finishing. However, if a little extra time is available, surfaces can be bead blasted, hand-polished, lacquered or painted and the applications of blackout or RFI/EMC shielding on plastic components. For prototypes requiring more specialised finishing, we can outsource this to our network of trusted suppliers. Examples of these finishes include powder coating, anodising of aluminium, electropolishing of stainless steel, electroplating of steel or brass components, vacuum metallisation. There are some niche prototyping processes that we do not offer in-house, such as 3D printing in metal, sheet metalwork and spring production. If you need these, we subcontract them on your behalf. In fact, whatever you need, we are your one-stop shop for prototyping.

We have all the major prototyping technologies and processes under one roof and can outsource almost anything else. Talk to us about your product development prototypes on 01763 249760.

Prototype Projects, established in 1980, is a specialist in the manufacture of prototypes. The company is experienced in 3D Printing, CNC Machining, Rapid Prototyping, Model Making and Additive Manufacturing. The company is located in Royston, Hertfordshire.

Cambridge Network Limited is a company registered in England under company No. 3400152 The Hauser Forum, 3 Charles Babbage Road, Cambridge, CB3 0GT

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