When creating a new product, most manufacturers agree that consolidating a bulletproof design and selecting the right materials is vital to the success of the project. But did you know that choosing the right processing method for your material can affect time to market, cost and overall product quality.
CNC machining uses computer software to control the machine that cuts complex 2D and 3D shapes from blocks of material. Typically, a CAD drawing or other digital representation of the required part is created and the drawing is then converted into instructions for the CNC machine (e.g. speed, position and co-ordination). The machining process may require multiple routers, lathes and other tools to remove the different layers and complete the final shape. In general, CNC machining is very fast, accurate and repeatable, enabling precise tolerances to be achieved.
Mould Casting Stainless Steel Auto Parts
Casting is similar to injection moulding, but there are significant differences. Injection moulding involves injecting material into a mould at high pressure, which means that injection moulds require stronger materials, more time and higher manufacturing costs. Casting relies solely on low pressure or gravity to pour the mixed reactants into the mould, so casting tools are often faster and cheaper to manufacture. In addition, injection moulding takes longer to set up and take down than casting and may require the assistance of heavy lifting equipment.
Now that we have briefly described the machining and casting processes, let's look in more detail at how they differ in terms of cost, lead times, quality and other considerations.
When comparing the two methods, cost is usually the primary consideration and is influenced by several factors: throughput, tool price, material savings and part size. Yield is one of the easiest parameters to determine. Usually, if the production run for the life of the part is less than 100 parts, machining makes sense, while if the life volume is larger, casting is the better option.
Precision Casting Thin-wall Parts
In general, CNC machining is less expensive for small production runs and prototyping, but eventually a crossover point is reached where moulding is more cost effective for larger production runs.
For cast moulding, the cost of the tool is surprisingly low. Depending on the volume, casting tools can be made from aluminium, filled epoxy, silicon or even high density foam. In contrast, metal tools are the most expensive tooling option but are more likely to last the entire life cycle of the process, while composite tools are about a third the cost of metal but may require some maintenance over time.
Material savings play a role in the cost of handling methods. Reduced material manufacturing (e.g. machining) involves manufacturing a product by removing, cutting and drilling excess material to produce the desired shape. Naturally, this method generates excess waste, which is raw material that you paid for but now have to discard. Formed manufacturing, on the other hand, uses techniques such as casting, injection moulding and stamping to shape or cast the material into the final product. This method produces very little excess waste, so material savings can be significant, depending on the size and complexity of the part.
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