Is it Hard to Learn CNC Machining?

Is it Hard to Learn CNC Machining?

August 30, 2021

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Learning new technical skills is often very challenging and requires a great deal of dedication, coffee, and swearing. And much of that is the same to be said when it comes to learning computer numerical control (CNC).

However, don’t let that put you off, because whilst it may be difficult to become a CNC expert, it may not be so difficult to learn the basics of CNC machining which could allow you to complete a project or even land you a CNC operator job. You may not even need to learn it at all with services such as Geomiq’s online CNC machining service.

CNC Machining and What it’s Used For

Before we dive into what skills you’ll need to learn and how hard it all is, you’ll need to know some basic theory behind CNC machining.

CNC Machines are high-precision electromechanical devices that can manipulate cutting tools around 3 or 5 axis through a computer program to make complex parts. CNC Machines can be controlled by either writing the g-code for the machines, using a CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) software that automatically writes the g-code from a 3D computer model or through conversational programming which is done at the machine.

Like most machining processes, CNC machining is a subtractive process meaning that it removes material to make the desired part, unlike additive processes such as 3D printing. The machines remove material from blocks of material (called blanks) by drilling, lathes, and milling and can change tooling and bits during machining.

CNC machines can be used on a variety of materials from ceramics to polymers but are more commonly used on wood and metals such as aluminum, steel, and titanium. These machines are much quicker and more precise than manual machining methods with tolerances up to ±0.001mm! Which is far less than the width of a human hair, or about 27500 times smaller than the width of your average banana – if you’re interested…

What Skills are Required for CNC Machining

There are two areas that you must understand and be proficient in to be a good CNC operator. That is to understand the mechanical functioning of the machine and to be able to control the machine through programming.

CNC Machine Knowledge

Understanding the mechanical functioning of the machine can have a big impact on the quality of the finished part both aesthetically and structurally. Understanding the functioning of the machine includes knowledge about: tooling; feed speeds; how to calibrate a machine; how to secure work in the machine; and most importantly, how to safely operate the machine.

These skills are often overlooked as being simple principles, whilst they may be easier to learn in theory than g-code, it may take years of experience to know, for example, what type of vice will be best to use to secure a piece of work in the machine for the job being programmed.

Common CNC Machine types:

3 Axis Machines:

Multi-Axis Machines:

  • Mill Turning
  • Continuous 5 Axis
  • Indexed 3+2 Axis

CNC Programming Knowledge: G-code and CAM

Like most people, you might find the thought of having to learn how to program or code a bit daunting. However, manually programming a CNC machine job is uncommon with the development and widespread use of CAM software. As mentioned earlier, CAM automatically writes the g-code for 3D computer models. So if you’re a hobbyist using a CAM software like Fusion 360 with an Arduino CNC machine, you may never have to touch g-code.

Even if you did have to learn g-code, whilst it is difficult to start with and to master, in a relatively short period you can be programming CNC machines. And to put g-code into a wider programming context, it is regarded as one of the easiest programming languages to learn.

As a professional CNC operator, you will work mainly with CAM. However, that is not to say that it will be easy at this level. CAM requires the operator to have expert knowledge of the machine being used and the right tools to use for the job.

Changing between different CAM software can prove to be a steep learning curve. And whilst CAM is a great tool that has increased the efficiency of the CNC machining manufacturing process, it is still often the case that CAM does not produce the desired result and the g-code has to be edited manually by the operator. This is why learning g-code is highly beneficial.

Popular CAM Software:

  • Fusion 360
  • Solidworks CAM
  • Mastercam
  • Solid Edge
  • CAMWorks

Summary

So as we’ve discussed, the CNC machining process can be challenging to master but it is certainly not out of your reach. You should expect it to take over 3 years of hard work to master but it can take just a few hours of easy tutorials to create basic parts. Like most skills, CNC machining is a skill that is built upon through experience and trial and error.

If you are looking for a career in machining, despite automation in manufacturing, CNC machining is here to stay so is a relevant and valuable skill to have, and if you become a professional machinist you will likely have a rewarding and well-paid career.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

Introduction to Computer Numerical Control

Introduction to Computer Numerical Control

August 30, 2021

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Computer numerical control, or CNC machining, is a computer-aided, high-accuracy manufacturing process. Pre-programmed CAD software is used to automate the controlled machining and eliminate the need for an operator. The main advantage of CNC machines is their ability to run unattended during the machining cycle and manufacturing process, allowing the operator to carry out other tasks elsewhere.

This drastically reduces human error during the controlled machining process and allows for high accuracy manufacture of the different parts. Another benefit of CNC machining is consistent and accurate workpieces.

The CNC machining operations of today benefit from not only high accuracy machine tools and code controls, but also the ability to repeat multiple manufacturing processes on separate occasions. The flexibility of CNC programming easily allows CAD files to be tweaked and changed to produce multiple different parts.

All CNC machines work based on a 3-axis motion control process. The X, Y, and Z axes are positioned with high accuracy along their length of travel. Most axes are linearly positioned, but some are also rotary, meaning that they move around a circular part. CNC machines work with a range of motion actuated by servomotors and guided by computer-aided code controls.

Overview of types of axis machining

CNC machining operations work with 3 main types of computer-aided axis machining.

The most simplistic of the three types is 3-axis machining, where the workpiece is fixed throughout the manufacturing process and able to move in the standard linear X, Y, and Z directions. This type of controlled machining is largely used for manufacturing processes in 2 and 2.5 dimensions.

4-axis machines work with the standard X, Y, and Z axes, and add another axis (often known as the A-axis) of rotation around the part being manufactured. This type of manufacturing process is used as a more cost-effective method of computer-aided controlled machining that would theoretically be possible with a 3-axis machine, but require more time and conde controls.
Finally, 5 axis machines work by use of 2 out of 3 possible rotation axes. There are two main subtypes of 5 axis CNC machining operations: 3+2 machines, or fully continuous 5 axis machines.

In 3+2 machines two rotation axes (either the A and C axes or B and C axes) will operate independently from each other, allowing the workpiece to be rotated by a compound angle relative to the main cutting tool. In a continuous controlled machining manufacturing process, the two rotation axes can be simultaneously altered alongside the machining and cutting tools moving in the standard linear axes.

3 axis machined parts

3 Axis machining is suitable for fairly simple 2D parts that don’t require much depth or detail, such as basic brackets, plates with holes in them, or simple aluminium moulds.

3 axis machining works using the following operations and principles:

  • automatic or interactive operation
  • milling slots
  • drilling holes
  • cutting sharp edges

 

4 axis machined parts

The main advantage of 4 axis machining is that utilising the A axis of rotation eliminates the need for multiple fixtures, and fixture changes, which reduces the overall cost of the manufacturing process. It allows for the production of angled parts, which are not otherwise possible in standard 3 axis CNC machining. It should be noted that all angled features must lie about the same axis for the manufacturing process to be optimised successfully.

The two subtypes of 4 axis machining are index 4-axis machining and continuous 4-axis machining. In the first, the axis rotates when the machine is not cutting the material; in the latter, the material can be cut and rotated simultaneously.

The following components are suited to 4 axis controlled machining:

  • Helixes
  • Cam lobes
  • Plane type part
  • Variable bevelled parts
  • Curved surface parts

5 axis machined parts

5 axis machining specifies a workpiece that can be manipulated from 5 sides at a time. This type of complex machining is commonly used in the automotive, aerospace, and boating industries. It is best suited to complex solid components that would otherwise need to be cast.

5 axis machining requires more complex CNC programming and code controls. It is most effective for high feature accuracy, increased productivity, higher quality finishes, cutting intricate details, and machining complex shapes.

Some of the machined parts used within the manufacturing process for 5 axis CNC machining are:

  • End mills (flat, ball, bull, and chamfer) face mill
  • Corner rounding tools
  • Slot tools
  • Spot-centre drill
  • Twist drill
  • Tap
  • Reamer
  • Counterbore

CNC Tools

Alongside the different axes the CNC machining manufacturing process operates within, there is also an extensive variety of CNC machine tools allowing a wide variety of cuts and incisions to be performed.

CNC machine tools are at the cornerstone of all CNC machining operations. In the most basic terms, a cutting tool is a tool affixed to a CNC machine that is then used to remove material from the workpiece by shear deformation. The machines work by having the tool rotate at rapid speed, making cuts and chips at the workpiece at either singular or multiple points. The machine tools used within the manufacturing process affect the size of the chip removed from the material. The speed and feed rate will also influence the final result of the controlled machining.

An extensive list of all CNC machine tools is outwith the scope of this article, but some examples are listed below:

  • End mills (Flat, Ball, Bull and Chamfer)Face mill
  • Corner Rounding tools
  • Slot Tools
  • Spot-Center Drill
  • Twist Drill
  • Tap
  • Reamer
  • Counterbore

End mills

Flat nose mills are used for milling 2D contour pockets. Ball nose mills are used for 3D milling, and bull nose end mills have a radius corner. Chamfer mills have an angled nose used to create a chamfer to deburr parts.

Face Mill

A face mill has a cutting insert that is replaced when worn. These are rigid and may have up to 8 or more cutting edges, suitable for quick removal of material. They are often used for the first machining operation to create a flat finished face on the part.

Flat mill

Corner radius tools are used to place a fillet on the outside corner of a part

Slot Mill/Slotting Saw

Slot mills include side milling cutters and Woodruff key cutters used for creating slots.

slot mills

Hole-making tools: Centre spot drills

Short and rigid drills are used to create a conic on the face of the part.

Countersunk drills are used to create the conical face for a machine screw, and combined countersunk drills create the screw clearance hole and the countersunk in a singular motion. Twist drills are available in many lengths and are made of high-speed steel, carbide, or cobalt coated with titanium nitride for a longer lifetime. The tip angle is 118 degrees.

twist drill

Taps

Cutting taps:

This type of CNC machine tool forms threads by shearing material away. Form taps work by forming the metal into shape. They produce no chips and are used for soft materials such aluminium, copper, brass, and plastics. Bottoming taps are used to tap blind holes. Spiral point taps push the chip ahead and out the bottom of a hole. Care should be taken to select the correct drill size for drilling the holes to be tapped.

Reamer:

Reamers are used to create holes of precise shapes and excellent surface finish. Reamers provide high accuracy and are best used for ground pins and bushings. They also require a specific hole size to be drilled before use.

Counterbore:

A counterbore looks similar to an end mill with a pilot in the centre. Within CNC manufacturing processes, it is used to spot face holes. The function of the pilot is to ensure the spot face is centred on the hole.

taps

Cutting Speeds and feeds

The cutting tool moves through the material at a certain rotational speed defined in revolutions per minute (measured in RPM) and feed rate (measured in mm per minute through the linear feed of the material). It is important to select proper speeds and feeds for the material and part. This selection is more difficult than a manual mill, in which the operator can feel the pressure and alter the feed based on the cutting force. CNC mills require speeds and feed to be programmed via code controls in advance. The tool supplier provides guidelines for the RMP and feed rate of specific tools.

When it comes to the manufacturing process, there are specific formulae for the speeds and feeds used in CNC programming of the CAD software in advance.

CNC Milling

CNC milling refers to a type of computer aided controlled machining that uses rotary tools to make cuts at materials during the manufacturing process. The machine reads the geometric code from the CAD file and replicates the design using the machine tools with high accuracy.

CNC Mills are very common and can be used for many geometries. The workpiece is held rigidly in a jig or vice, and the mill head moves in the 3 axis plane to remove the material using high-speed rotary tools or drills.

Due to the limited range of motion, they are relatively easy to operate and program, so set-up costs are low compared to other CNC processes. However, the limited range of movement means that there are some limits to the manufacturing process.

This can be overcome by using the machine tools to reorientate the part, however, each adjustment in the manufacturing process adds extra time and risks possible error, meaning that costs can increase quickly.

CNC Turning

CNC turning is a high accuracy computer-aided manufacturing process in which the material making up the workpiece is held and rotated by the machine while the tool chips at it to create the desired shape. This type of controlled machining produces parts at a higher rate than CNC milling, which makes it a highly cost-effective process and particularly useful for manufacturing large numbers of units.

CNC turning machines work by holding the workpiece on a spindle and rotating them at high speed. The cutter used is typically a blade, unlike the rotary cutters used in CNC milling.
Due to the nature of the manufacturing process, this kind of CNC machining can only produce revolved or rotationally symmetrical parts along with a central access (eg. cylindrical parts and threads). If a more complex design is required, the part will often then be transferred to a CNC mill for further controlled machining.

Conclusion

There is a wide range of CNC machining operations suitable for different manufacturing processes. When choosing a partner for producing your CNC machined parts, don’t leave quality to chance. Upload your files today, and get started with a free quote from Geomiq.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

How much does CNC machining cost

How much does CNC machining cost

This article covers the basics of how much CNC machining costs, including a breakdown of factors affecting the price, how Geomiq calculates this, and how you can get a quote today. Read on to find out what CNC machining is and how much it costs to use CNC machining to create your products.

August 10, 2021

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CNC machining costs vary on the basis of the hourly rate but are usually around £40 – £65 per hour in the UK. The cost of CNC machining is dependent on the cost of the individual parts, the labour cost, finishing, and machining.

This article covers the basics of how much CNC machining costs, including a breakdown of factors affecting the price, how Geomiq calculates this, and how you can get a quote today.

Read on to find out what CNC machining is and how much it costs to use CNC machining to create your products.

What is CNC Machining?

CNC stands for computer numerical control and is an automated digital method of designing a product according to pre-programmed specifications. CNC is a subtractive process, meaning that parts are removed from the design materials to create the required products.

Depending on what you wish to design, and the required outcome for the material you are working with, you may use different CNC machines and methods. Geomiq is proud to offer a wide range of CNC design options at an affordable cost. This includes both CNC milling and CNC turning, with 2-3 axis and multi-axis options available.

CNC machining is a cost-effective way of manufacturing multiple identical parts you can package or construct before the full product is complete. Although CNC design methods have been used since the 1950s, recent technological advances have made the cost of CNC machining a far more realistic and feasible option for a wide range of industry professionals.

The main advantage of CNC machining is the scope for high accuracy and precision manufacturing it provides, reducing the overall cost of the manufacturing process and the risk of human error. You can also save your digital CNC designs in advance, allowing you to return to them to create further products, or easily tweak them to create something similar along the line.

Which factors affect the overall cost of CNC machining?

CNC machining costs are affected by a number of factors. The cost of CNC machined parts in the UK largely depends on the complexity and number of products you need to manufacture. It is also highly dependent on the different materials used. The hourly rate of the manufacturing process, and the total time it takes to produce the individual parts also impact the cost of CNC machining.

The factors affecting how much CNC machining costs include the different parts and materials, the labour cost, the machining costs, and any additional completion costs for your product, such as finishing, quality assurance, or special extras.

Partnering with a company like Geomiq allows you to get a quote within one business day, and receive your completed parts within as little as five working days.

When it comes to the detailed factors affecting the cost of CNC machining you can consider the following:

  • The complexity of your design: the more complex your design, the greater the cost of CNC machining. (Multiple faces needing features will mean the part or machine needs to be rotated every time, curved surfaces are machined slower than flat surfaces, hard to reach areas require special tooling)
  • The number of parts within your order: low quantity parts (1-5) require the same set up and CAM programming as higher quantity parts (5+).
  • The size of your batch: the volume of your order will significantly affect CNC machining costs, regardless of your choice of manufacturer. It is worth thinking about value for money and economies of scale when getting a quote.
  • The materials you choose to use: the different materials you choose for the CNC machining process will significantly impact costs. For example, aluminum or plastic is considerably cheaper than stainless steel. Bearing in mind material costs and comparing all options is good practice when placing an order.
  • Lead time: consider how soon you require your parts. The time between the order and the completed delivery will significantly impact the cost of CNC machining.
  • Tolerances: more stringent material tolerances require additional inspection time and quality assurance, increasing the cost of your order.
  • Choosing a finish for your order: Adding a finish to your parts is a fantastic way to create a high-quality and aesthetically pleasing product, but bear in mind that doing so will increase the overall cost of CNC machining. Consider what you require from your products in terms of appearance and durability when seeking a quote.

multiple cnc parts in different shapes

How can you reduce CNC machining costs?

When you design a product using CNC manufacturing methods, it is only natural that you want the best value for money and to reduce costs where you can. Alongside the above, consider the following to optimise the price of your order:

    1. Consider the materials you require. Remember that the cost of the individual materials in your products also affects the time of the manufacturing process, which impacts the overall cost of CNC machining based on the hourly rate.
    2. Consider the complexity of your design. Design complexity can be changed and improved to lower the cost of CNC machining when you place an order.
    3. Consider the volume of your order. Smaller orders will cost less, however, with larger orders with more parts, the price per unit ordered will be reduced. The scale of your business, and product needs will significantly impact the cost of CNC machining in the long run.

Why order CNC machined parts with Geomiq?

At Geomiq, our process is simple. When you upload a quote and specify all your requirements, you can choose from over 180 highly vetted CNC machining partners to ensure that you receive both attention to detail and top quality parts. You’ll get exceptional value for your money every time.

Geomiq also provides manufacturing updates, quality control, and delivery of your parts. You will receive three quotes in total allowing you to compare the cost of CNC machining.

Manufacturing can start the same day and be tracked via Geomiq’s platform. Certifications provided at the quality control stage are CMM, FAIR, RoHS, and Mill Certs. Following this, the cost of CNC machining will include next day delivery. The rapid turnaround time, high accuracy and scalability, and wide variety of materials accessible all make Geomiq a fantastic partner to connect you with a cost-effective and high-quality CNC machining output.

Ready to order your CNC machined parts?

CNC machining costs don’t have to be confusing. For the best option for top quality and cost efficient CNC machined parts, look no further than placing an order via Geomiq.

Get access to a 24-hour quote and start your order today.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

7 ways to improve your CAD designs for CNC machining

7 ways to improve your CAD designs for CNC machining

If you want to optimise your CAD designs specifically for CNC machining and ensure that they are as cost-effective as possible, check out our guide.

June 10, 2021

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CNC machining is an efficient, cost-effective way to have metal or plastic parts produced that require cutting or drilling, and this manufacturing technology is made an even more attractive for engineers by the fact that they can be manufactured to your own design direct from CAD software.

The development of CNC machining has a fascinating history, with the earliest CNC machine tool developed in the 19670s, using code to control the movement of the production equipment. In today’s world, parts delivered right first time might mean a competitive edge over competitors, meeting delivery targets or hitting budget, and therefore it is more important than ever that the design used for production is not only suitable for CNC machining, but is also critical to ensuring the most cost-effective, accurate manufacturing processes are used. Getting your CAD right will save you time in bringing your products to market whilst helping to avoid the cycle of revision and re-work that can become a problem when your model isn’t optimised for the manufacturing process selected; CNC machines are extremely versatile, but every tool has its limitations.

The global CNC machine market is expected to reach $115 billion USD by 2026, giving an idea of just how popular this manufacturing method is. According to a report by The Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA), the turnover for the manufacturing technology sector in the UK in 2018 was around £2.5 billion, with a large proportion of those manufactured goods set for export. The MTA report also shows that there is little data available on the use of manufacturing technology such as CAD software systems, so it is difficult to say how many of us are now designing and engineering our own components for manufacture, but our experience at Geomiq is that more of our customers than ever are designing and developing their CNC machined parts in house, and the more we can do to help in getting those products right first time, the happier we – and you – will be. To give you the best chance of ensuring your design is both cost-effective and suitable for CNC machining, we’ve put together the following tips for improving your CAD design ready for manufacture:

#1 Design cavities with a suitable width to depth ratio

End CNC milling tools are limited in the length that they can cut, usually restricted to around 3-4 times their diameter. If you limit the depth of your cavity to 4 times the width, your design will be machinable, therefore if the cavity of your CNC machined part is 20mm wide, you should limit the depth to no more than 80mm.

#2 Keep walls of CNC machined parts to a minimum machining width

Thin walls can reduce the stiffness of the component and therefore create vibrations during the CNC machining process, lowering the surface finish quality and reducing accuracy. Keep wall thicknesses within your design above 0.8mm for metals and 1.5mm for plastics to avoid manufacturing process issues.

#3 Consider manufacturing tolerances carefully

Tight tolerances increase CNC machining time and therefore cost. For example, a hole with a tight tolerance applied will require a boring tool or a reamer rather than a standard drill bit. CNC machines vary in their standard tolerances and if you apply none to your model then the machine will default to its standard tolerance. Where you have a specific need for a tight tolerance on a CNC machined part, apply it only to that dimension – and maintain a consistent tolerancing method across the remainder of the CAD design to save time and cost.

#4 Apply a radius to internal edges and corners

Most CNC machine cutting tools are cylindrical in shape and therefore sharp corners are not achievable. If your design incorporates corners which are at a 90-degree angle, rather than use a radius you can feature an undercut instead.

#5 Use text sparingly

If the process of machining text can be avoided it will save cost. Text features are often undertaken post-machining as a painted solution within the finishing process. However, if you have text which must be CNC machined, ensure that it is recessed or engraved, as this required less machining and material removal than raised text. Also opt for a san serif font at a size of 20 point or larger with spacing of at least 0.5 mm between characters.

#6 Keep threaded hole lengths to 3 times their diameter

Most of the strength of a threaded connection happens within the first few turns, and given that the longer the hole, the greater the time and cost for CNC machining, we recommend that you keep your threads to a length that is necessary rather than excessive, except for blind holes that require an additional unthreaded length at the bottom.

#7 Consider each feature from a manufacturing perspective

Features that exist for aesthetics only will inevitably add cost to a CNC machined part; there is always a balance to be had between the creative and the practical element of a design, but features which are extremely small, for example, will require a specialist tool, and many features which are purely aesthetic can be achieved through a finishing process rather than as part of the CNC manufacturing process. If a feature is necessary, consider whether it is actually feasible for it to be manufactured using CNC machining techniques – for example, curved holes are not achievable through CNC machining but could be produced using EDM as a separate process. Finally, consider whether your unnecessary feature takes your CNC machined part from a 3-axis machining method to a 5-axis machining method, or even if it simply introduces additional manual intervention; the latter two solutions will prove a more expensive manufacture method.

Geomiq offer the full range of CNC machining facilities, including CNC milling, CNC turning and both 3-axis and 5-axis machining options. With more than 180 fully vetted CNC manufacturers available through our partnership network and a range of over 100 metal and plastic materials to choose from, we will be able to support you in whatever manufacturing process you require for your CNC machined parts. However, if you would like to know more about the various types of CNC machining methods available and which one might best suit your CAD design, take a look at our CNC design guide.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

How to Get Your Product Made: The 6 Steps to Manufacturing Your Product

How to Get Your Product Made: The 6 Steps to Manufacturing Your Product

New rapid prototyping, product development and on-demand manufacturing technologies are making it easier to bring a new product to market than ever before. Today, we explore how to get your product idea manufactured – and break down the 6 key steps to bringing your product idea to life.

June 4, 2021

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There are few better feelings than having an idea for a groundbreaking new product.

However, as every inventor will know, that initial ‘lightbulb moment’ is the beginning of a much longer – and usually less straightforward – process. Once you’ve got your initial idea, you’ll need to research your market, define your audience, test your idea, build your product, and market it to the masses.

Luckily, new rapid prototyping, product development and on-demand manufacturing platforms are making it easier to bring a new product to market than it ever has been before.

We know there’s a lot that goes into inventing and building a product from scratch (a lot more than we could cover in just one article!), but we want to provide you with a great place to start. Today, we’ll be breaking down the basics of bringing a new product to market, to help you get started with bringing your own idea to life.

Let’s start by breaking it down step by step:

How do you bring a new product to market?

Step #1: Come up with a concept

In other words, have an idea! If you’re reading this article, you’re likely already well on your way, but at this stage, the idea doesn’t need to be fully formed – just a thought about how something can be improved, or how a new product might help make people’s lives a little easier.

You may find your best ideas come from addressing a personal dissatisfaction or frustration – something that you’ve noticed is missing in your day-to-day life.

Step #2: Define and research your target market

No product is really worth anything unless it’s built with a specific group of customers in mind. To create a truly great product, you need to think hard about who you’re creating for – and what would be important to them.

Who is your ideal customer? What are their buying behaviors? Is your product seasonal, or do people typically buy it each and every month? The importance of scoping out your target market cannot be stressed enough, as it will determine your distribution plans, price structure, and other important factors.

Step #3: Research, research, research – and test!

When it comes to product development, there can be no overstating the importance of validating and testing your product. Essentially, it’s critical to evaluate your idea as a viable business opportunity. This means understanding your product, your target market and your competition as best you can.

This is an ongoing process – which should happen even years after the product has launched – but at this stage, thorough research involves having conversations with industry experts and target consumers, finding out whether your idea is feasible, how it would work on a practical level, who would derive the most value from the product and what they would use it for.

In fact, The Lean Startup methodology has as a premise that every startup is a grand experiment that attempts to answer a question. The question is not “Can this product be built?” Instead, the questions are “Should this product be built?” and “Can we build a sustainable business around this set of products and services?” This experiment is more than just a theoretical inquiry; it’s a first product – and that’s where prototyping comes in:

Step #4: Create a prototype

As experts in on-demand manufacturing, we know we might be a little biased, but this is the fun bit! Prototypes are early samples, models, or releases of a product, and are built to test a concept or process – and check that it actually works.

In 2021, creating high-quality prototypes for products has never been easier, as rapid prototyping techniques (such as 3D printing and CNC machining) allow you to create prototypes quickly to visually and functionally evaluate an engineering product design.

Rapid prototyping helps reduce product development time massively, is cost-effective (as it is an automated process) and is extremely precise. As rapid prototyping is an iterative process, it also allows customer requirements to be incorporated into designs cost-effectively further down the line, once your product is made.

Step #5: Secure a patent

Now your product development has begun, it’s time to make sure your idea remains yours!

You can use a patent to protect your invention. It gives you the right to take legal action against anyone who makes, uses, sells or imports it without your permission. To be granted a patent, your product must be something that can be made or used, and must also be completely new.

To patent an idea, you apply to the UK Intellectual Property Office (formerly known as the Patent Office) by completing a patent application form and drafting the patent specification. You can find a more extensive guide to patenting your product here.

Step #6: Decide how you want to bring your product to the marketplace

Now that you’ve tested some successful product prototypes and patented your product idea, you’ve got several options before you.

Do you want to sell your patent outright, or start your own company? Perhaps you want to outsource some aspects of your business, while still keeping full ownership of it (making you an ‘outsource entrepreneur’)? These are all completely valid options, and we recommend thinking very carefully about which path best suits you.

Once you’ve made a decision, voila! You’ve just brought your product idea to life, and you’re ready to start producing your products en masse. When thinking about how you want to bulk manufacture your products, we recommend choosing a reliable on-demand manufacturing platform, so that you can benefit from a global network of suppliers, ensure the correct quality assurance procedures are in place, and save yourself a lot of time and money on the admin.

Without further ado, let’s get into how you can leverage on-demand manufacturing platforms at every stage of your product development journey:

How to leverage on-demand manufacturing when bringing a new product to market?

Earlier, we touched on the importance of prototyping in bringing a new product idea to life. Now, let’s get into how you can get high-quality prototypes created quickly, easily and cost-effectively.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to order high-quality custom parts (created through processes such as CNC machining, 3D printing, injection moulding or sheet metal fabrication) using a trustworthy online on-demand manufacturing platform.

Once you’ve taken your product to market, on-demand manufacturing platforms are also a great way to manufacture products in large quantities (bulk manufacturing) as they are much more cost-effective and efficient than traditional manufacturing processes.

To name just a few of the benefits of on-demand manufacturing platforms for product development, they connect you with a far larger network of global suppliers, let you feel confident in the quality of the parts you’ll be receiving (so long as you choose a reputable and reliable MaaS platform) and are also much faster than traditional manufacturing processes. For example, when you order custom parts through Geomiq, you’ll receive them in as little as 5-7 days!

Let’s break the on-demand manufacturing process for product development down into five simple steps:

Step #1: Upload your designs

With an online manufacturing platform, you can upload your designs (CAD files) digitally in minutes, where they’ll be checked (and then triple-checked) by an in-house team of expert engineers.

Step #2: Receive your quotes

After you’ve uploaded your files – and in doing so, submitted a request for quote (RFQ) – your platform of choice will match your part request with ideally suited manufacturers from across the globe. At Geomiq, we benchmark a minimum of 3 quotes and deliver you the best prices within one business day.

Step #3: The manufacturing begins

Your prototypes or high-quality custom parts will then be created by your chosen manufacturer – using 3D printing, CNC machining, or injection moulding techniques, to name just a few examples of the capabilities we offer at Geomiq.

Step #4: Quality assurance

Provided that you’ve chosen a reliable digital manufacturing platform, a team of engineers should be carrying out multiple quality checks right from the beginning of your part’s journey; improving and correcting the files you upload, preparing detailed inspection reports within the warehouse and conducting thorough inspections of each and every part you order before sending them your way.

At Geomiq, we pride ourselves on our commitment to providing the best quality assurance possible. We employ highly skilled engineers to triple-check all of your files and parts during the quoting process and on the factory floor, ensuring that you’re always happy with your results.

We currently offer 5 levels of inspection when creating our detailed inspection reports (Standard Inspection, Formal Inspection, First Article Inspection Report, CMM Inspection and Custom Inspection), as well as multiple quality checks throughout each part’s journey.

Step #5: Your high-quality custom parts will arrive at your door

After receiving the parts from the manufacturer and carrying out multiple quality checks and inspections, your digital manufacturing platform of choice will deliver your parts to your door.

Final thoughts?

Product development is no walk in the park. There’s a lot of market research, testing and product validation involved in bringing a new product to market – but don’t worry, there’s good news too!

Not only is building a new product from scratch one of the most exciting and rewarding things you could set out to do, with the introduction of rapid prototyping and on-demand manufacturing platforms like Geomiq, the practicalities can all be taken care of for you, so you can forget the hassle and focus on what really matters – bringing your product to life.

Thanks to on-demand manufacturing platforms, a global network of high-quality suppliers are just a few clicks away – and they’re all ready to help make your product and prototypes as fantastic as they can be.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

Top 5 Automotive Industry Innovations and 3D Printing Applications in 2021

Top 5 Automotive Industry Innovations and 3D Printing Applications in 2021

In 2021, modern automotive firms are facing intense demands on all fronts, meaning they are innovating rapidly and at scale. Read on to find out this year’s top 5 global automotive trends – and how 3D printing is helping advance the automotive industry more quickly than ever.

May 19, 2021

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When it comes to the speed at which different industries are embracing technology, there’s no denying that the automotive industry is miles ahead.

The electric vehicles and self-driving cars we used to see portrayed in futuristic movies have now become very real and tested concepts – and have even become a part of our everyday lives. Not only are cars taking on new forms and using different types of energy, in 2021, they’re also manufactured in entirely new ways – and built from materials that are just as new. For example, 3D printing is helping manufacturers build cars that are stronger yet lighter, and according to Dave Paratore, President and CEO for NanoSteel, “about half the steel in cars being used today didn’t exist even 15 to 20 years ago.”

Today, we’re going to break down five of the exciting global trends we’re seeing in the automotive industry in 2021, and take a closer look at the part 3D printing is playing in the advancement of the automotive industry.

This year’s top 5 global automotive trends

#1 Electric vehicles

2020 produced an influx of major new electric car models from mainstream manufacturers, including the Volkswagen ID.3, the Honda E and the Vauxhall Corsa-e.

In 2021, you can expect to see more advanced electric arrivals than ever, as manufacturers work hard to meet increasingly tough carbon emissions rules.

To name just a few of the electric models coming onto the scene, look out for Audi’s fully electric Q4 E-tron, the Mercedes Benz EQA and the Skoda Enyaq iV.

#2 Autonomous (self-driving) vehicles

Autonomous (self-driving) vehicles seem to be the talk of the town in the automotive industry right now, with Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk stating that self-driving tech will have Level 5 autonomy by the end of 2021, and the UK’s Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling even positing that fully autonomous cars will be on UK roads as early as June this year.

In reality, there is still much work to be done on the tech behind these self-driving vehicles, but in a saturated market where standing out is key, expect most leading car manufacturers to be working hard on creating entirely self-driving vehicles.

Image: A Tesla Model 3, which is fitted with a a partial self-driving system, Getty Images

#3 Health, wellness and wellbeing automotive features

After the pandemic, consumers have a heightened awareness of the importance of health and wellbeing.

To keep up with new demand, automotive companies are experimenting more and more in 2021 with new health and wellness features that purify the air, have built-in seat massages for tired travellers, and even detect whether the car’s occupants are over the legal alcohol limit.

But it doesn’t stop there. The advanced air filter systems in Tesla’s Model X vehicles were advertised as being so powerful that in ‘Bioweapon Defense Mode’ they could help vehicle occupants survive a military grade bio attack!

According to Forbes, the number of connected vehicles equipped with health, safety and wellness features will increase at a compound annual growth rate of 25% between 2019 and 2025. In other words, health and wellness automotive features are going to be big!

#4 ‘Innovating to Zero’

Just as consumers and companies have become more aware of health and safety issues since the onset of the pandemic, awareness around the environmental impact of the manufacturing and automotive industries has also increased. As a result, we will see more and more companies developing technological solutions to the life-threatening problems posed by climate change.

The national and global ‘race to zero’ will see automotive firms looking to reduce and even eliminate their carbon emissions through creating low-emission cars and promoting more sustainable manufacturing processes (such as 3D printing and other forms of additive manufacturing).

#5 Automotive digital retail

Throughout 2020, shoppers turned to online shopping for more than just their groceries. It’s now become normal for consumers to turn to the internet for anything they are looking to buy – from furniture and holidays to houses and cars! In fact, retail sales and online retail sales are expected to grow at an average of 2.5% and 11.5% per year, respectively, over the next five years in Western Europe, with ecommerce driving more than half of retail growth.

Whether this will eventually lead to the death of the glamorous car showroom experience is yet to be determined, but certainly we can expect to see the digital car purchases become significantly more commonplace.

Additive manufacturing applications in the automotive industry

In 2021, 3D printing is advancing the automotive industry by helping it make vehicles that are stronger, lighter and better performing.

In fact, according to SmarTech Publishing, the 3D printing automotive market is expected to reach $2.3 billion in revenue by the end of 2021; a figure the industry is already well on track to exceed.

However, the main driver in 3D printing for vehicles is not printing the entire vehicle, but high-quality car parts and accessories.

The four core applications of additive manufacturing in the automotive industry are:

#1 Designing and communicating concepts

Often, manufacturers use 3D printing to create smooth, accurate and detailed scale models of vehicle parts and accessories, in order to demonstrate new concepts and designs.

#2 Rapid prototyping and validating prototypes

3D printing has become one of the most popular ways to validate a prototype across many industries, and many automotive firms depend on this form of additive manufacturing to create models that are suitable for performance validation and testing.

#3 Pre-production sampling and tooling

3D printing can be used for rapid manufacturing and making moulds, allowing automakers to produce samples and tools at low costs.

#4 Creating custom parts

As the automotive industry moves towards creating new and innovative car features, 3D printing helps manufacturers tailor custom, lightweight parts to specific vehicles to help improve the performance, complexity or functionality of a car.

Automotive companies using 3D printing applications to innovate

Here are just three examples of automobile manufacturers using 3D printing in their workflows to up their automaking game:

#1 BMW

According to BMW, the company sees “great future potential for serial production and new customer offers” in additive manufacturing. For years, BMW has been using 3D printing to create both plastic and metal car parts and accessories, and to produce parts that wouldn’t be possible to make with other technologies. For example, they used 3D printing to create the i8 Roadster’s top cover. This expanded the cover’s design possibilities, and made it lighter and more durable. Making the mounting for this component would not have been possible using a traditional casting process.

3d printed part for BMW i8 Roadster’s top coverImage: BMW used 3d printing to create the new BMW i8 Roadster’s top cover, bmw.com

#2 Ford

Ford is another company who have been very open about their love of 3D printing technologies, stating: “In the last few decades, Ford has printed well over 500,000 parts and saved billions of dollars and millions of hours of work. Where it would have taken 4-5 months and cost $500,000 to produce a prototype with traditional methods, a 3D printed part can be produced in a matter of days or hours at a cost of a few thousand dollars”.
In fact, one of Ford’s divisions recently printed what they claim is the largest metal car part for a working vehicle in automotive history. This part is an aluminium manifold inlet, printed using GE Additive’s Concept Laser X LINE 2000R, and was installed in the Hoonitruck; a 1977 Ford F-150.

#3 Volvo

Volvo has largely been using 3D printing for tooling and supply chain management. The use of 3D printing has particularly been useful in restocking the company’s machines with new prints for out of production parts. For example, Volvo engineers recently designed new water pump housings for the company’s A25G and A30G vehicles, and needed to validate the new design using rapid prototyping. Using traditional casting methods, the cost of this project would have been around $9,090, with the part cost around $909, with the lead time for producing the prototype being a minimum of twenty weeks. However, thanks to 3D printing, the prototype only cost $770, and took the company just two weeks.

Frederick Andersson, Development Engineer for Wheel Loaders Powertrain Installation at Volvo CE, said this of rapid prototyping using 3D printing: “As we only need to produce low volumes of parts for prototyping, it’s a good way to see what works. We have a lot of knowledge and we can make changes quickly and easily with 3D printing. Because of this, it means that the time to market for a new product is quicker, so it’s of great benefit to our company.”

Final thoughts

In 2021, modern automotive firms are facing intense demands on all fronts; the demand for better performing, more environmentally friendly vehicles, the need to streamline supply chains and logistics, the need to stand out amongst growing competition, and the need to cater to post-pandemic changes in consumer trends.

However, necessity is often the mother of invention, and in 2021, the possibilities of automotive design and innovation are looking more exciting than ever. In particular, one technology that is helping automotive firms innovate rapidly and at scale is additive manufacturing, which is transforming the way carmakers design concepts, rapid prototype and create custom parts.

While it remains to be confirmed whether self-driving cars will take to the roads this year, or what the future holds for the in-person car showroom experience, one thing is for certain: in the competition between old and new, technology is winning the race.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

How to reduce your CNC machining costs

How to reduce your CNC machining costs

CNC machining is ideal for both plastic and metal parts, but if you are concerned about part price why not take a look at our suggestions for keeping your costs to a minimum.

May 12, 2021

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CNC machining has been around in some capacity for over half a century, but with material choices becoming ever wider and more specialist, and the technology undergoing continuous development, CNC machined parts have become the go-to solution for manufacturers. According to FNF Research , the global CNC machine market is expected to be valued at $115 billion by 2026, and with the drive for competitive pricing, improved quality and bespoke options that so many manufacturers face, we are all looking for ways to reduce manufacturing costs on both prototypes and large-scale production volumes. We take a look in more detail at how you can reduce your CNC manufacturing costs.

Volume of parts

CNC machining can be used for prototype parts because, unlike manufacturing methods such as injection moulding, there are no tooling costs – and, as highlighted by the British Plastic Federation , mould tools and equipment can take weeks or even months to manufacture and are therefore both costly and slow to produce finished parts. Selecting CNC machining as the solution for mid-volume plastic parts, therefore, is a no-brainer, and for metal parts it can be a great solution for both mid-range and large scale production. However, there is a set-up cost which can make CNC machining prohibitive for a one-off or prototype manufacture, in which case 3D printing may make more sense until the part has been tested and signed off. CNC machining really comes into its own for orders of quantities of hundreds or more – particularly where the order is to repeat, because the set-up is saved as a programme and therefore does not need to be paid for on each occasion. Where CNC machining is the right manufacturing method, there are ways to ensure that your product design allows the part to be produced in as cost effective a way as possible; the tips below will help you to design for manufacturability and keep your costs to a minimum.

Material selection

The choice of material affects CNC machining costs in two different ways. Firstly, there is a cost to the raw material, and the choice of material is dependant largely on your application. The second price impact is via the machinability of the raw material; the easier the material is to machine, the lower the cost – and the harder the material, the greater the wear on consumable items such as tools, and therefore this will push the cost up. Again, materials selection is always a balance between cost versus performance. Be clear about the level of functionality and properties that your material requires and seek advice if you are unsure; for example, whilst aluminium only has around 60% of the electrical conductivity of copper, it is lightweight and cheaper to buy – it may be that it will perform just as well for your application but without the added costs that copper brings with it.

Finishes and treatments

Finishes can include the smoothness of parts as well as any treatments to enhance the material performance. CNC machined parts are capable of creating much smoother surface finishes than 3D printing, however, additional processes are required to achieve this. If the component is purely functional, then it is more cost-effective to accept a part with the machined finish and deburr them in-house if you have the facilities. Plastic CNC machined parts are generally supplied as-machined, but with metal parts deburring is common – and where the product design includes an edge break, this requires an additional tool to machine these corner sections. Product designs for CNC machined parts are often drawn with all corners chamfered, and corner radii in place – understandable in terms of making the part smooth and avoiding sharp edges, but it does add machining time and therefore cost.

When considering treatments such as chem film, anodising and blacking, each of these calls for an additional process; multiple treatments require multiple processes and therefore incur multiple costs. If the treatment is necessary for the application then it is an unavoidable cost, but it is worth considering whether an alternative material might provide a more cost-effective solution when combined with the machining time.

Part geometry

This is probably the biggest influence on CNC machined part cost, because the part geometry dictates both the volume of material and the machining time required. By focusing on design for manufacturability, you will be able to cut costs and ensure that you balance aesthetics and functionality against machining time and costs.

#1 Use rounded internal corners

CNC machining tools naturally leave rounded internal corners as a result of their shape. The narrower the internal radius, the smaller the tool required and the higher the number of passes that will be needed at a slower speed. For the most cost-effective result, ensure your product design has an inside corner radius has a length to diameter radius of 3:1 or less.

#2 Avoid deep internal cavities

Deep pockets within your product design will create a need for an end mill to be used in progressively small increments, or alternative specialist tools. Either of these options add costs as extra time is taken and specialist tools are employed. The recommended ballpark is to design CNC machined parts of a length which is up to 4 X its depth.

#3 Keep walls as thick as possible

To machine parts with thin walls the speed of the CNC machining action must be slowed right down, increasing machining time. Thin walls can also mean that the usual tight tolerances that CNC machining is renowned for cannot be held. Walls should have a minimum thickness of around 0.794mm for them to be feasible for CNC machining, and if the product design requires a thinner wall then it may be better to look at sheet metal fabrication as an alternative manufacture method.

#4 Keep parts simple

Added complexity means added cost. If your product design is particularly complex, it may be worth breaking down the component into several pieces for CNC machining. Although this will add the cost of assembly, it may be more cost effective overall than trying to machine a single component.

Tolerances

Standard CNC machining tolerances are usually around +/-0.127mm, but +/-0.005mm can be achieved in many cases, with even tighter tolerances on critical areas. However, to avoid adding unnecessary cost to your parts, it is recommended that you specify only the critical surfaces or features with numerical tolerances and leave the rest of the model within a standard tolerance range. This will keep your costs to a minimum.

Machining of text

Where possible, avoid using text on a CNC machined part as the detailed nature of the work involved will push costs up. If text is absolutely necessary then opt for engraved rather than embossed text as this requires less material to be removed and is therefore a better cost option.

CNC machining is a great solution for mid-range manufacture volumes of plastic parts, or for mid to large-scale production of metal components. The rule of thumb when looking at part design should be to keep it simple and ask whether each feature is necessary; something seemingly innocuous might add more cost than you anticipate. For an online quote from a network of CNC machinists with delivery in days, upload your CAD file to our platform and find out within 24 hours what your CNC machined part design will cost to produce.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

6 Top Tips for Dealing with Undercuts on Moulded Parts

6 top tips for dealing with undercuts on moulded parts

Wondering what the implications are of design features on injection moulded parts? Find out how you can best deal with undercuts to reduce the impact on the manufacturing process – and ultimately the component cost.

 

May 5, 2021

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It would be great if parts were always designed for manufacture; not only would it be easier for the toolmakers and moulders, but it would also be more cost-effective for the customer. However, life is rarely that straightforward, and many plastic parts perform functional jobs such as acting as a clasp or fastener, or interconnecting with another component using features like snap-fits or threads. We take a look at why undercuts in injection moulding create a challenge for the moulding process and how to overcome them when designing your injection moulded parts.

How does injection moulding work?

Injection moulding uses a tool made of two parts; a core and a cavity. Heated plastic is forced into the cavity of the tool to create the shape of the part, and, once formed and cooled, the two halves are released to extract the moulded component, an automated process known as ejection. When high volumes are manufactured a tool can contain multiple cavities, all injected at the same time through runners which take the molten material to each mould cavity.

What is an undercut in injection moulding terms?

An undercut is a feature on an injection moulded part that prevents the component from being ejected from the mould tool in the usual way. Examples of an undercut feature include lips, cavities, threads, holes for bolts or screws, hooks and clasp features.

Why do undercuts create a challenge for injection moulding?

Undercuts prevent parts from being extracted easily if tooling is designed in the standard method using a core and a cavity. When undercuts are included in the part design, adjustment of the mould design is required to enable the moulded part to be removed from the tool. There are times when a redesign of a part is preferable to an alternative mould design because the cost of creating some tool features can be prohibitive; it may be simpler and more cost-effective to alter the component’s geometry to suit the manufacturing process.

Where possible, then, the question of the feasibility of redesigning the part for manufacturability tends to be asked first, because a mould that requires secondary operations can quickly add extra cost to the tooling manufacture, and the requirements of the moulding process may result in both manual intervention (and therefore higher labour costs) as well as a higher scrap rate due to the additional room for error, particularly where multi-cavity tools are planned. However, where this is not possible or practical, there are some guidelines you can follow which will help to ensure that the injection moulded part uses the most effective manufacturing process and therefore provides the most aesthetic and cost-effective result.

#1 Parting lines

By adjusting the parting line between the two halves of a mould, you can create the split line right at the point of the undercut so that it intersects with the desired feature, removing the need for secondary operations. If the part design allows, it may be possible to have a parting line that incorporates more than one undercut by having the two halves of the tool separate across multiple features – the parting line may appear to be a little haphazard as it runs the length of the part, but it will be easier and more cost effective than having a tool with secondary operations. However, the position of the parting line of a tool is also influenced by the geometry of the moulded part, how well the material is likely to flow, the aesthetics of the part and critical features/faces, so it is not always possible to position the parting line purely based upon undercuts and the avoidance of secondary operations. If you choose to move the parting line to incorporate an undercut it is important to remember to adjust your draft angles to allow for this feature.

#2 Side Actions

If there is the need for an undercut or a cavity within the part itself, such as you might find in a beaker or a hand tool grip, then the mould tool design solution tends to be to lay the part on its side so that the parting line is along the length of the part. There is then a third part to the tool, which travels in sideways on an angled pin to create the undercut within the part. The side action can be automated so that it slides in at the same rate as the other two parts of the mould, and retracts when they do so that the moulded part is available for extraction only once the side action has completed. The side action insert must travel perpendicular to the part itself.

#3 Lifters

Lifters are not dissimilar to the side action mechanism, except that in this case there is an angled insert which, as the relevant half of the mould is released and the part ejected after moulding, the insert moves away from the moulded part at an angle to release it from the undercut. Compared to some of the other undercut solutions, this one is reasonably cost effective as it can be automated and becomes part of the standard ejection process, relying on the geometry of the tool design to allow for demoulding of the part.

#4 Sliding/telescoping shutoffs

Sliding shutoffs are used when a feature cannot easily be created through other means, such as a hook protruding from the side of a moulding. To create the hook, there will be a sliding shutoff through the hole in the wall of the main component to create this undercut. The rest of the hook feature will be produced by the half of the mould.

The difficulty with sliding shutoffs is that, if designed as two mating parts of a tool, there will be significant friction each time the tool is opened and shut; plastic cannot be allowed to form beyond the shape of the feature and so the shut-off must be extremely tight. To overcome damage to the mould, which would in turn very quickly produce moulded parts with an unacceptable finish, each of those surfaces must be drafted by around 3˚ so that full metal-to-metal contact is not made until the mould is fully closed and a mechanical seal is formed between the two faces.

#5 Bumpoffs

Bumpoffs are used for products that snap into place with a slight lip, such as lens covers and mobile phone cases. An insert is created to form the geometry of the pocket required and is bolted into the mould. If the material is pliable enough (softer plastics rather than reinforced materials), it will simply pop back over the mould feature during the ejection process by briefly deforming, but will retain its finished moulded shape. In order to achieve successful ejection, the bumpoff must be smooth and have radiused rather than sharp angles. Bumpoffs can only be used if they are located away from strengthening features such as ribs, and must have a lead angle of between 30˚ and 45˚.

#6 Hand-loaded inserts

Where an undercut is required with more difficult features such as a lip with a sharp angle, or an additional feature such as an awkwardly positioned hole does not allow for a solution like a bumpoff, then hand-loaded inserts are used. This solution sounds exactly as it is described; one or several machined parts of the mould are individually hand loaded into the necessary section of the cavity prior to the plastic material being injected. Once the moulded part has been formed, the two halves of the mould separate and then the hand-loaded inserts are retrieved in person. The downside to this is that it extends the cycle time of the part production, therefore increasing cost – and, of course, if the tool has multiple cavities, the person must load and unload each individual cavity.

For further detail around how to design a moulded part for manufacture, why not check out our injection moulding design guide; although we provide a free DFM (design for manufacture) service, it will save you time – and ultimately money – if you can approach the initial design process of your component with some of these manufacturing considerations in mind from the outset.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

10 ways 3D Printing will disrupt traditional manufacturing

10 ways 3D printing will disrupt traditional manufacturing

3D printing has already exceeded expectations in many fields and is hailed as a game-changer in the world of manufacturing technology. We take a look at some of those predictions.

 

April 29, 2021

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Additive manufacturing technology has evolved dramatically since the days when we were all creating 3D printed novelty cartoon characters and watching with wonder as television painted a rather sci-fi image of a future with 3D printing at the heart of the home. In recent years, 3D printing has indeed become democratised, and even if not an integral part of everyday home life, ordinary people are able to afford this technology. However, the domestic market is already slowing and, by comparison, the development of 3D printing as a manufacturing technology is gargantuan. Particularly applicable to industries where innovation and complex components are commonplace – such as aerospace, automotive and medical markets – additive manufacturing has been embraced, not only for rapid prototyping but also with an eye to serial production. There is seemingly no end to the limits to which this on-demand manufacturing technology can be pushed. We take a look below at some of the predictions for the future of 3D printing.

1. Serial production techniques

The majority of 3D printing is currently used for rapid prototyping during the development phase of production, where the 3D printed component is used as a sample rather than a final, functional solution. Higher quality output, improved materials and bespoke finishes will move the market towards using the technology for serial production. We are already seeing the adoption of additive manufacturing technology in areas where cost- and weight-reduction are paramount and where fast response times provide a competitive edge. There is no reason for larger scale manufacturers not to look to 3D printing for the same benefits. GE Aviation used 3D printing to take a nozzle for a jet engine from an almost impossibly intricate build made up of 20 separate pieces, to a single-piece 3D printed in a nickel alloy, weighing 25% less than their usual nozzle and five times more durable. Their former head of engineering describes the manufacturing technology as ‘an engineer’s dream’.

2. Automation

Although the actual printing process in additive manufacturing is automated, the level of human intervention in both the setup and finishing of production is still disproportionally high. A shift towards better simulation software and smarter tools will allow 3D printing to be better integrated into the automated production processes.

3. Sustainability

Whilst additive manufacturing is, by its very nature, less wasteful than existing subtractive processes, we are likely to see a further shift towards energy efficiency and recycled or reusable media. The University of Louisville have found a process that will transform the 8 million tons of soybean husk produced every year during the processing of soy, into micro and nano scale fibres that can be used for fibre composites and thermoplastic packaging products in 3D printing.

Image source: enablingthefuture.org

4. Customised prosthetics and organs for healthcare

Whilst 3D printed prosthetics are already starting to gain wide acceptance, we’ve not seen much uptake as yet in bioprinting. The 3D printing of tissues and organs will become commonplace as the technology matures and people become more comfortable with the concept. e-NABLE is a global community of volunteers who use their domestic 3D printers to make free prosthetic limbs for children and adults who have lost limbs through war, natural disasters and accidents. Their open-source designs mean that just about anyone with access to additive manufacturing technology can get involved.

5. Metal

Metal printers will become cheaper, with better tolerances and higher quality finishes, which will, in turn, create a greater uptake in the market. One of the fastest growing segments of the additive manufacturing market, 3D printing in metal is already widely used for the rapid prototyping of components. However, because 3D printing can facilitate the production of parts with internal structures and shapes that cannot be machined, this is a potential game changer and could drive the push to serial production of metal components. One of the world’s largest metal 3D printing machines is already making entire rockets for NASA to be trialled in space during the coming year.

6. Production of fully customised drugs

Bespoke medication is the goal of 3D printing in the pharmaceutical sector. This would enable manufacturers to combine multiple prescriptions into a single pill which is then printed on demand, saving billions in healthcare – not to mention saving lives. There are some drugs on the market which are already produced through additive manufacturing, an example being Spritam, an epilepsy drug and the first 3D printed medicine to be approved by the FDA. The main benefit currently is that the dosage can be customised for the recipient so that the dosage is accurate in a way that mass-produced drugs are not.

Image source: bigrep.com

7. Modular and bespoke vehicles

3D printing in the automotive industry is mostly used for product development and rapid prototyping. In the future, we can expect to see more and more cars with 3D printed parts, allowing for bespoke customisation of vehicles. We’re not going to see fully 3D printed vehicles in the general marketplace just yet because the technology is not ready to replace the current processes involved in volume production of vehicles, but the potential is there. However, that’s not to say that it isn’t currently feasible; NERA is the first 3D printed e-motorbike, with all parts except for the electronics produced through additive manufacturing.

8. Composite materials

Composites are lightweight, strong materials usually found in industries such as aerospace, automotive, and oil and gas. Their production is costly in terms of labour and resource, but material development is allowing more of these to be 3D printed with the potential to scale the process up to larger volumes. This could make lighter, stronger components available for serial production and reduce costs.

9. Architecture

There are already examples of some 3D printed homes, but as the cost savings, flexibility and efficiency of on-site printing become increasingly attractive to both architects and the construction industry, we can expect to see more homes produced through additive manufacturing in the coming years. As innovative architects around the world tussle to out-do one another, this project by SQ4D claims to be the world’s largest 3D printed home at 1900 square feet, only taking 48 hours to print over an eight-day period.

10. 3D fashion

Whilst much of the innovation and development in the world of additive manufacturing is based around manufacturing technology in engineering settings, not all 3D printing is destined for industry. The possibilities that 3D printing opens up is also catching the eye of fashion designers. With the ability to grow a fabric 3-dimensionally and define the characteristics of that garment – flexibility, waterproofing, opacity – not only can clothing become aesthetically novel, but also functionally smart too. These dresses from ThreeASFOUR were designed as a point of crossover between biomimicry and fashion.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.

Sustainable Manufacturing: How is Geomiq Fighting the Climate Crisis?

Sustainable Manufacturing: How is Geomiq Fighting the Climate Crisis?

Today, the Geomiq team are beyond excited to announce our newest sustainability initiative. Read on to learn why sustainable manufacturing has never been more crucial – and how we can all work together to fight against climate change.

 

April 22, 2021

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Manufacturing is faster, easier and more efficient than it ever has been, and each year it operates on an even larger scale. We celebrate the innovation, dynamism and power of the manufacturing industry, but with great power comes great responsibility, and it’s vital we recognise its environmental footprint too. Since 1950, the metal manufacturing industry has grown by more than six times. Unfortunately, so have global carbon emissions. In 1950, the world emitted just over 5 billion tonnes of CO2. Today, we emit over 36 billion tonnes each year.

If we continue this way, our planet will not be habitable for future generations. As David Attenborough puts it, “the moment of crisis has come”, and something has to be done. Luckily, we still have time to change course. We can avoid more dire impacts of climate change by limiting warming to 1.5°C, according to one recent report by the United Nations, which stated that emissions of the greenhouse gases heating the planet – from power stations and factories, vehicles and agriculture – should be almost halved by 2030. With this in mind, sustainable manufacturing is the only way forwards – and the only ethical option for engineers and manufacturers everywhere.

At Geomiq, we’re on a mission to reduce our carbon footprint, promote real sustainability in the manufacturing industry and lead by example. That’s why, from April 22nd, we are committing to planting one tree for every order we receive on our platform. Our ultimate goal is to become a carbon neutral company by 2022, and to facilitate real change within the manufacturing industry as a whole.

To understand why sustainable manufacturing is so important, let’s start by taking a look at the industry’s current carbon footprint, and explore what we can do to reduce it.

The engineering and manufacturing industries’ current carbon footprint

When it comes to unsustainable processes, the manufacturing sector is currently one of the world’s largest perpetrators, emitting an annual total of 880 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (or equivalent greenhouse gases) each year. This makes it one of the largest single emitters of greenhouse gases in Europe.

In 2018, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency reported that in 2018, industry accounted for 22% of US greenhouse gas emissions in the USA. However, this figure only takes into account direct emissions – so the real figures are likely even more worrying. When you consider manufacturing companies’ use of electricity and transportation in their operations, the manufacturing industry’s share of emissions rises to nearly 30% – a larger percentage than any other industry.

As manufacturers, therefore, we have an enhanced duty to act quickly to reduce the damage we are currently doing to the environment, and reach carbon neutrality as soon as possible.

How can engineering and manufacturing become more sustainable?

There is plenty of guidance out there for those in the manufacturing industry who are looking to live more lightly on the planet. To name just one helpful resource, ‘ISO/TR 14062:2002, Environmental Management — Integrating Environmental Aspects into Product Design and Development’ is a great start for manufacturers and engineers looking to ‘go green’.

Here are some of the key things engineers and manufacturers are currently doing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions:

#1 Use environmentally friendly materials

With plastics proven to harm the environment, many manufacturers are looking to use more environmentally friendly materials, such as biopolymers/biodegradable polymers, in their manufacturing processes.

#2 Turn to additive manufacturing (3D printing)

In subtractive manufacturing processes, such as CNC machining, products are made by chipping away at blocks of material. By contrast, additive manufacturing (3D printing) is a process whereby three dimensional objects are created layer-by-layer using 3D object scanners or CAD (computer aided design). Since additive manufacturing forms an object on the build platform from material fed into the machine, there is far less unused waste. This makes 3D printing a more sustainable technique – as it’s far kinder to our planet.

#3 Focus on remanufacturing

Manufacturers can also reduce carbon emissions by remanufacturing; reusing durable materials (such as steel) in their manufacturing processes. Before parts can be used again, they need to be cleaned by sand blasting, pressure washing or abrasive blasting. Once this has been done, they’re almost as good as new – and the planet will thank you for using them!

#4 Be energy-efficient

As we touched on earlier, when you consider the manufacturing industry’s use of electricity and transportation in their operations, carbon emissions rise even further than the EPA’s estimated 22%. To save energy, manufacturers should consider buying energy-efficient machinery and equipment, lighting their facilities with LED light bulbs (which use 80% less energy than incandescent light bulbs), or look to renewable forms of energy, such as solar or wind. In fact, sunlight is one of our planet’s most abundant energy sources. According to Business Insider, the amount of solar energy that reaches the Earth’s surface in an hour is the planet’s total energy requirements for an entire year.

How is Geomiq working towards sustainable manufacturing?

At Geomiq, we are proud to be keeping our carbon emissions to a minimum through employing all of the strategies outlined above. But we believe there’s more we could all be doing.

That’s why we are excited to be launching an exciting new sustainability initiative today. From April 22nd, we will plant one tree for every order placed on our platform, as part of our ultimate goal to offset our carbon emissions and become a carbon neutral company by the end of 2021.

We’re excited about this initiative because science has demonstrated that planting trees is one of the best ways to help keep the planet green. According to The Grantham Institute (Climate Change and Environment), one tree saves one ton of CO2 during its lifespan. In other words, one tree can do a whole lot of good – and so can one company!

Let’s work towards a more sustainable kind of manufacturing

We are all responsible for fighting the climate crisis, and it’s crucial that we all come together – across every industry – to play our part in doing so. Of course, the first step is understanding the way our actions might be damaging the environment, so that we can start becoming more climate positive in the work that we do.

We would encourage everyone in the engineering and manufacturing space to think carefully about the above tips, and about what they can do to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and take care of Mother Earth. When we work together, we can ignite real change in the manufacturing industry – and make real sustainability a priority, alongside innovation.

It is everyone’s responsibility to help ensure a healthy planet for future generations. At Geomiq, we don’t just want to make high-quality mechanical parts, we want to make a better world too. Have a look at all the cool stats about our tree planting scheme: Geomiq x Ecology Partnership

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geomiq. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world analytic products as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of any Geomiq Employee.