How to Create Custom Metal Prototypes

Metal prototypes are essential to the product development process. Engineers and designers can create these metal prototypes to test and refine their designs before mass production projects. It’s not a one-shot project but requires careful planning and execution to ensure that the desired metal part is produced accurately, efficiently, and cost-effectively. In this post, we will discuss the steps involved in creating a custom metal prototype and provide tips and best practices for each stage of the process.

1. Design

The first step in creating a custom metal prototype is to create a design. This can be done using computer-aided design (CAD) software, which allows engineers and designers to create detailed 3D models of the part. The design should include all necessary features, including holes, fillets, and other details that are critical to the functionality of the part. It’s important to consider the intended use of the part, as well as any environmental factors that may affect its performance.

2. Material Selection

Once the design is complete, the next step is to select the appropriate material for the prototype. It depends on a variety of factors. For example, the intended use of the part, the required strength and durability, and the cost of the material.

Common materials used for metal prototypes include aluminum, steel, brass, copper, carbon steel, etc. Different metals have various properties. It’s important to select a material that is both suitable for the application and cost-effective for the production run.

3. Prototyping Technique Selection

There are several techniques that can be used to create a custom metal prototype, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some common prototyping techniques include CNC machining, 3D printing, metal injection molding (MIM), and sheet metal fabrication. The choice of prototyping technique depends on factors such as the complexity of the part, the required accuracy and precision, and the size of the production run.

CNC Machining

CNC machining involves using a computer-controlled cutting tool to remove material from lumpy metals until they become parts of desired shape and size. It’s an ideal choice for creating complex parts that require tight tolerances, which can be up to ±0.0005mm.

CNC Machining

It can also handle a wide range of materials(like metals and plastics)and finishes. It’s suitable for both small and medium size production runs. Compared to other processing techniques, it is relatively expensive, and may not be cost-effective for small production runs.

3D Printing

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, refers to a process of creating a part layer-by-layer using a computer-controlled printer. 3D printing is fast, inexpensive, and highly customizable. It makes it ideal for prototyping and small production runs. One of the biggest advantages is that it can also handle complex geometries that we can’t produce by using other techniques like CNC machining.

Banner-Metal 3D Printing

At the same time, 3D printing may not be suitable for parts for high-stress applications, as the parts produced may not be as strong as those produced using other techniques.

Investment Casting

Investment casting involves creating a mold of the desired part, pouring molten metal into the mold, and allowing it to solidify. It is suitable for complex parts that require a high level of detail, as well as for producing parts with a smooth surface finish.

It can also produce parts with thin walls or intricate shapes, and is suitable for small to medium production runs. However, it can be time-consuming and expensive to create the initial mold, and may not be suitable for large production runs.

Invest Molding Parts

Sheet Metal Fabrication

Sheet metal fabrication involves cutting, bending, and shaping thin sheets of metal to create the desired shape. This technique is ideal for producing parts with a simple design and can handle a wide range of materials and finishes.

It is also suitable for small to medium production runs and can be cost-effective for large production runs. And it may not be suitable for complex parts with tight tolerances.

Precision Sheet Metal Fabrication

4. Testing and Refinement

Once the parts are produced, they should be tested and refined to ensure that they meet the necessary requirements for the intended application. This may involve testing for strength, durability, and other factors that may affect the performance of the part. Any necessary adjustments should be made to the design or production process, and the parts should be retested until they meet the necessary requirements.

Beska’s Custom Metal Prototyping Service

The Beska team supports your metal prototyping projects with several processing ways available: CNC machining, 3D printing, and sheet metal fabrication. It allows us to create different prototypes with custom types and sizes for various applications. Which processing way will you choose for your metal prototyping project? Contact us here!


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