5 Common Rapid CNC Machining Questions

TIPS WITH TONY

Most are familiar with machining, but what makes it unique at Proto Labs? These are a few of the most common questions we receive about our rapid CNC machining service. These answers will help you optimize your design for CNC machining and determine how it can improve your product development efforts.

CNC-Machining-Block-Plastic

CNC machining is a subtractive manufacturing process that mills away at a block of solid plastic or metal.

1. What is unique about Proto Labs’ CNC machining process?
In order to efficiently machine low quantities as fast as possible, we do things a bit differently compared to a traditional machine shop. When you upload a 3D CAD file to protolabs.com, our proprietary software analyses the design, creates a quote, and generates the CNC toolpaths. By automating the front-end of the manufacturing process, we can machine a part in as fast as one day.

2. How does the quoting process work?
Once you upload your 3D CAD model to our website, the software calculates the price—not a budgetary estimate—to machine your design. Within a few hours, you’ll receive an email with an interactive quote. Here, you can select different materials and quantities and receive real-time price updates. The quote even contains a 3D-view of your machined part, which will highlight any differences between the machined part and the original 3D CAD model. See a ProtoQuote preview here. Continue reading

THE SHORT LIST: 4 New Capabilities at Proto Labs

The crew at Protoworks (our R&D program) has been busy. Every day they’re pushing the boundaries to advance new rapid manufacturing processes and materials and expand your design possibilities.

We just rolled out a few new capabilities that we’re excited to share.

2 is better than 1: Overmolding

Overmolding expands on our injection molding offering. At Proto Labs, it’s a multi-step process where we mold a substrate part and place it into a second mold, which then molds another material onto the substrate. It’s called pick-n-place molding.

liquid silicone rubber manufacturing facility

A look inside our liquid silicone rubber manufacturing facility

Overmolding can aid in dampening vibration, improving grip as well as two-color aesthetics. We are still in the beta testing phase of our overmolding process, but it’s open to everyone.

Visit our overmolding page for design guidelines or to submit a request for parts.

Extra-strength machined parts: titanium

You asked. We listened. Our CNC machines can now mill and turn parts from titanium. With an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and corrosion resistance, titanium is most suitable for applications in aerospace, medical and other industries where high performance is critical.

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Q&A: Rapid Manufacturing Fit for High-Speed Bike Design

Every year, cyclists converge in Battle Mountain, Nevada in pursuit of achieving speed records at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge (WHPSC). The competition is a mix of athletic performance, engineering and a seemingly endless number of variables. This past fall, Teagan Patterson, a Battle Mountain native and high-speed bicyclist, teamed up with Eric Ware and Mark Anderson to design a bicycle capable of capturing the world record — and her lifelong dream. 

Mark and Eric are veterans of the WHPSC having raced in 2009 with their vehicle, the Wedge, and reaching speeds above 70 mph — good for the eighth fastest time in the world and third fastest in American cycling history.

Drawing from their previous success, they worked with Teagan in preparation for the 2015 WHPSC, where they would try for another record.

Eric Ware knew Proto Labs from his day job as a mechanical engineer, so he decided to call us up for some machined parts for the bicycle design. In this Q&A, Ware gives a look behind-the-scenes at his team’s project.

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