Metal prototyping is common manufacturing process in the automotive, aerospace, medical and consumer goods industries becasue of high strength property of metal material. Today , in this blog , we explain how metal prototypes are produced with different techniques.
What Is a Metal Prototype?
A metal prototype is a physical model of a product that is created using metal manufacturing technique like CNC machining, casting or sheet metal forming. it commonly made from metals like aluminum, steel and other metal materials.
Advantages of Metal Prototypes
Metal prototypes have many benefits and are suitable to various kinds of industries, some of the benefits of creating metal prototypes include the following:
Strong and durable:
Metal materials such as stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, and magnesium alloys are known for their strength and durability. Metal prototypes with these metal material carry the material properties.
Metal prototypes can be more cost-effective becasue there no expensive tooling needed in the metal prototype machining process.
Metal protptypes can be made with all the metal materials , this make the metal prototype can be used exactly same applications of a mass production parts.
Metal prototypes can use the same materials with production materials, this make the function test available with metal prototpyes, no need to wait the tooling products to make the test , reduce the metal products devolopment time.
Application of Metal Prototypes
Metal prototypes are used to develop components such as engine, chassis, and interior and exterior trim. Prototypes can be used for testing and validation before mass production.
Aerospace and Aviation:
Metal prototypes are used in the development process of aircraft components including engine parts, brackets, housings. Prototyping ensures compliance with industry standards and enables performance testing.
Medical Device Development:
Metal prototyping is important in the medical industry for creating surgical instruments, implants, prosthetics, and medical equipment. It allows for precise fitting, functionality testing, and regulatory compliance before production.
Metal prototypes are used in the development process of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other electronic devices. it provide a physical representation of the prodcut to get investors or potential buyers excited about a new product.
5 Methods To Make Metal Prototypes
1. CNC Metal Machining Prototypes:
CNC machining is computer numerical control machining process that utilizes pre-programmed software to control the movement of cutting tool to cut the workpiece. It is a widely used method for metal prototyping. almost all Materials are suitable for metal protoypes, including aluminum alloys, copper, steel, titanium alloys, zinc alloys, and magnesium alloys.
- CNC machining can make the metal prototype with High Precision, this make it commonly used in Industries like medical, aerospace, and robotics which demand high precision prototypes.
- CNC machined prototypes are available with almost all metal materials.
- CNC prototype machining does not require molds, can be used for low volume manufacturing without any MOQ restrictions.
- CNC machining is a subtractive manufacturing process, meaning material is removed from the metal blocks, leading to some material waste.
- CNC metal prototyping may cost higher than other metal prototyping process becasue it take more time when for the Complex projects requiring high precision.
2. 3D Printing Metal Prototypes
Metal prototypes can be made through Metal 3D printing process, also known as additive manufacturing that constructs physical metal prototype by printing successive layers of metal powder based on digital model files.
- 3D printing is able to produce metal prototypes in a short time. so it is a good choice for those prototype projects need rapid delivery.
- 3D printing can make metal prototypes with complex features such as undercuts which are hard to machined by CNC.
- 3D printed metal prototypes may have a less smooth and refined surface finish.
- Metal powder is expensive than those metal blocks which makes the use of metal powder in 3D printing can be expensive.
3. Sheet Metal Prototypes
Sheet metal prototyping use sheet metal materials to creat a physical example that allows designers to test the function and form of a part prior to mass production. Sheet metal prototypes can be divided into functional and non-functional prototypes.
- Sheet metal prototypes have excellent strength and durability properties, making them suitable for functional prototypes
- Sheet metal fabrication techniques, such as laser cutting, bending, and welding, enable fast and efficient production of prototypes.
- Sheet metal prototyping is more cost effective for low volume production runs compare with other prototpyes manufacturing methods.
- Unlike CNC machining or 3D printing, sheet metal prototyping has design limitations.
- Sheet metal prototyping has wider dimensional tolerances than other metal prototyping method like CNC machining.
4. Casting Metal Prototypes
Casting metal prototyping is a widely used process for creating a samll volume physical metal parts that allows designers to test the function and form of a part prior to mass production. Pouring molten metal into a mold, which is then cooled down to solidify the metal. Once cooled, the metal prototype is removed from the mold and prepared for further processing.
- Casting metal prototyping offers design flexibility and can produce prototypes with intricate features and internal structures.
- Casting can produce prototypes with excellent surface finishes, often requiring minimal post-processing.
- Casting metal prototyping have limitations in achieving high dimensional precision, especially for intricate features or tight tolerances.
- The casting molds cost is expensive for one-off prototypes.
5. Extrusion Metal Prototypes
Extrusion metal prototyping is to create physical metal profiles before lagre-scale production. forcing a metal material, typically in a heated and semi-liquid state, through a shaped rapid tooling to create a continuous profile with a desired cross-section.
- The extrusion process such aluminum extrusion is highly efficient and can achieve high production rates. It enables the rapid production of metal prototypes.
- Extrusion Metal Prototyping offers excellent dimensional accuracy and repeatability, resulting in consistent and precise prototypes.
- The surface finish of extruded metal prototypes may not be as smooth or refined compared to other manufacturing processes.
- Extrusion requires the creation of specialized dies or tooling, which can increase initial setup costs.
Good quality Metal prototypes depends on the right machining process you choose, At KUSLA prototype, we are capable of different metal rapid prototyping solutions to fulfill your different metal prototype requirements. contact us today to start your metal prototypes project with us.