Infinite Capacity Model Optimizes CNC Machining
Here at Protolabs, we often reference “infinite capacity” when talking about our lead-time model for our CNC machining service, but what does that really mean and why should you care?
Let’s start by reviewing the model that is most commonly used in the industry, finite capacity. When manufacturing companies or machine shops are operating with finite capacity, you—as an engineer or designer or buyer—often get varied lead times, no quotes (or if you do get a quote, it takes a long time), or inconsistent pricing because of fixed resources.
By contrast, with infinite capacity, a company is guaranteeing that resources will be available every time, on time. This model creates lead-time and pricing reliability with unprecedented speeds.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the benefits of infinite capacity, which include:
- consistent lead times
- on-demand production that helps solve supply chain challenges
- an abundance of plastic and metal material options
- rapid prototyping capabilities that help eliminate downtime
- risk reduction capabilities
Consistent Lead Times, All the Time, with Infinite Capacity
Do you ever find yourself in a jam, where you needed prototype parts yesterday? Maybe you made a last-minute iteration to your prototype design and you need to get the part in hand ASAP? This is a common dilemma we hear about. Indeed, with our 500-plus CNC mills and lathes, we produce more than 75,000 machined parts per month. Our infinite capacity model guarantees your part in three days and in most cases can deliver parts in as fast as 24 hours. If speed is important to you, using a digital manufacturer with infinite capacity just makes sense.
On-Demand Production to Solve Supply Chain Disruption
In addition to infinite capacity offering quick turns on prototype volume parts (quantities 1-15), it allows for quick turns on low-volume production orders. Are you a buyer or procurement manager navigating a disrupted supply chain? When you have supply chain emergencies and need production-quality parts fast, infinite capacity means low-volume quantities (15-1,500) within days. All parts are manufactured in the United States, so we can guarantee a faster lead-time on higher quantities of production parts than most competitors. In addition to quick-turn capabilities, we have other capabilities in machining, such as chromate and anodizing finishing, and First Article of Inspection (FAI) reports. Oh, and we are AS9100 certified.
Material Selection to Support Infinite Capacity
More than 40 different grades of metal and plastic materials are available in-house for machining—the materials you need, when you need them. Some of the more common machining metals used include aluminum, titanium, stainless steel, and steel. A wide selection of plastics is also available. Check out our materials comparison guide for more information.
Eliminate Downtime with Infinite Capacity
When making multiple iterations to your prototype designs, infinite capacity helps eliminate your downtime waiting for new parts. This means you can design a part, order it, and receive a machined prototype within a day to test form, fit, and function. With no minimum order requirements, you can order the parts you need and have them in hand fast. This influences engineers approach to their product development process by enabling iterative design and reducing time to market.
Infinite Capacity Mitigates Risk
Finally, yet another benefit of infinite capacity: Risk reduction, by having an on-demand supplier of machined parts if your own in-house capabilities are maxed out or falter. Building in this type of manufacturing safeguard is really a key element of a strategic supply chain that can help guard against the risks of disruptions, threats, and uncertainties while, at the same time, supporting your company’s overall growth goals.
If you’ve been following along, you’ve probably noticed that all of the benefits listed above have one thing in common—speed! When we narrow it down, the biggest advantage of going to a digital manufacturer that offers infinite capacity is how fast you can get your machined parts delivered to your door.
Amanda Tierney is the product marketing manager for CNC machining and sheet metal at Protolabs. She has 10-plus years of experience marketing to manufacturing engineers and designers across multiple industries. She holds a B.A. in business and marketing from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont.