Future of Manufacturing - Combining 3D Printing with CNC Finishing

2022-02-05 16:40 by Jonathan Buford (comments: 0)

Future of Manufacturing - Combining 3D Printing with CNC Finishing

Aside from developing the MakiBox, we are working on new processes to create a new breed of manufacturing. The time when tooling up something to make thousands of copies of the same exact design is coming to an end, and it is time to start figuring out new ways to make things so that products benefit from the same rapid evolution of software. Many people focus on the mass customization aspect of this type of technology, however, that doesn't take into consideration that there will always be a need for fairly standard stuff in our lives.

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One potential direction is to combine additive and subtractive processes to create very finished, but tooless production.

What is shown in the gallery is a MakiBox part, just a simple cube of plastic with three holes in it perpendicular to each other. I did the output on our RepRap here using Skeinforge and Repsnapper, and it actually is pretty ok dimensionally, but there are some problems that would not make it usable for a production piece.

Most of the problem areas would be fixible with some fine tuning of the machine and the output settings, but things like the layered finish will still remain.

What I did, and you can see various stages, is to take the piece and just mill off around 0.75mm off of each face. The result is a cube that is basically perfectly square, and could be used for a production piece if it was the correct size. So, why is this a big deal?

  1. You can see the surface finish is a perfect matt. It would be accepted by anyone as a piece of plastic that was mass produced if there were no additional artifacts from the printing process.
  2. Assuming you wanted to put a painted finish on a part, this would be a paintable finish that would adhere to the paint well.
  3. Additional polishing (perhaps via CNC) would render this a gloss finish, allowing for printed color to be used versus painting.
  4. Even though this is a solid piece, it is more or less hollow. When you pick it up it is deceptively light, however, it is very solid. I was able to mount it in a machine vice and use a reasonable amount of pressure to hold it to work it without delaminating. 
  5. This process would be quite material efficient and also play off of the strengths of both processes. 3D printing is able to selectively put down material, minimizing the amount of material that is left to machine off by the CNC process. All the material CNCed off would in turn be able to be recycled back into new printing, meaning that there should be very little wastage of material.
  6. Minimizing the CNC process means it can be very quick, really just a finishing pass at extremely high speed and low loads, which would be complimentary to a single machine that is able to do both processes.

Update: I found out with a little heat applied, you can get a nice gloss finish to come off of the machined parts. 

Many people wonder what to do with 3D printing, I think this is the direction it will take or at least one specific usage that would offer a lot of advantages to the current system. When you don't have to ammortize even the $3k USD cost of cheap tooling into a product, and can make running changes to improve the design without having to have a week of delay to change the tool, then some magic starts happening.

Look for more about this sort of thing here in the future. In the mean time, check out theMakiBox A6 and help support it by sharing it or funding it.

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